In my neighborhood in Pawtucket, it’s common to run into your neighbors on summer evenings. Lots of people eat dinner on their porches, or go for walks up and down the streets, or drink wine in the yard as the sun sets. My partner, Nate, and I like to walk. As we do, children bound up to us and begin to chatter excitedly. They may show us the praying mantis they caught in a jar, or the shells they collected on the beach that day, or give us the details about the birthday party down the street. We talk with their parents, talk about nothing in particular, nothing too important, but we laugh often. As the orange sun sets and the purple-grey twilight takes its place, it is comforting, fortifying conversation.

These simple, random interactions make me feel whole.
(Curt Columbus, The Importance of Neighbors)

I suspected that whole above may mean “full; complete” but the dictionary says this is only before noun. Is the whole “not broken or damaged”?

  • 1
    I think this is a good question, but you can probably treat feel whole as an idiom.
    – user230
    Sep 29, 2013 at 0:44
  • @snailboat There's no need to treat feel whole as idiomatic; this is a less-common but still standard use of the adjective. Sep 29, 2013 at 0:56

1 Answer 1


I disagree with the OALD's tagging of the definition as "only before noun". English grammar has a number of general rules (such as putting adjectives before nouns) that are frequently ignored for stylistic or historical reasons ("attorney general").

In this case, whole does mean "complete", with the suggestion that this is the way things ought to be, even if they often aren't.

  • 1
    You disagree that whole has attributive-only uses. Let's test that out by turning the OALD's attributive examples into predicative examples: We drank a whole bottle each.*The bottles we each drank were whole. Hmm. That didn't work very well. We offer a whole variety of weekend breaks.*The variety of weekend breaks we offer is whole. No, I don't think you can reasonably disagree that there are uses of this word that are attributive-only.
    – user230
    Sep 29, 2013 at 1:07
  • @snailboat On definition 2, I don't disagree at all. I think that definition 1 (or it least its list of examples) is a conflation of usages wherein "complete" is not reasonably distinguishable from "unbroken", and the whole entry fails to account for the particular construction of whole as a predicate adjective, which is commonplace and uses the word for its standard meaning. Sep 29, 2013 at 1:14
  • @snailboat, what you said is the very reason I upload this question. I've not found the predicative examples for whole.
    – Listenever
    Sep 29, 2013 at 1:47

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