Word Confusion: Hole versus Whole

Posted May 24, 2012 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Victor Tookes commented about an hysterically funny word confusion regarding hole and whole. It just goes to show that everyone needs a proofreader…

Many of the confusions I come across are words out of context — brake vs break, mail vs male — but the mind boggles at asswhole. I got nothin’.

One comment I must add… it does sound as though the guy was at least consistent…snicker…chuckle…oh, heck, outright guffaw… I did so enjoy your share, Victor! Thanks, Kathy

Victor’s share:

“I absolutely cannot describe how annoying the whole/hole mistake is. I recently read an indie zombie novel that used “asswhole” throughout the book, and then talked about the “hole world”. It was an exact flip-flop.

After a while, I started to think about maybe it’s worse to be an asswhole. I mean, if we call someone an ass, or a specific part of the ass, wouldn’t it be worse to be the whole thing?

And what about those poor people who live in the “hole world”? What do you think their life is like, their entire existence carried out underground in a tiny hole in the ground.”

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Hole Whole
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com for the definitions and Victor Tookes for the catch and perspective!

“Big Pothole” courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Uncl3dad

Whole Onion” courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Darwin Bell

A whole purple onion.

Part of Grammar:
Noun 1; Verb, intransitive & transitive 2

Noun plural & third person present verb: holes
Past tense or past participle: holed
Gerund or present participle: holing

Adjective; Adverb; Noun
Plural: wholes
Hollow place in a solid body or surface

  • Animal burrow
  • Aperture passing through something
  • Cavity or receptacle on a golf course, typically one of eighteen or nine, into which the ball must be hit
  • A hole as representing a division of a golf course or of play in golf
  • [Physics] A position from which an electron is absent, especially one regarded as a mobile carrier of positive charge in a semiconductor
  • [In place names] A valley
[Informal] Small or unpleasant place

[Informal] Awkward situation

Verb, intransitive:
[Golf] Hit the ball so that it falls into a hole

Verb, transitive:
Make a hole or holes in

[Golf] Hit the ball so that it falls into a hole
[Attrib.] All of

[Attrib.] Entire

  • Used to emphasize a large extent or number

In an unbroken or undamaged state

In one piece

  • [Attrib.] Of milk, blood, or other substances with no part removed
  • [Predic.] Healthy

[Informal] Emphasizes the novelty or distinctness of something

A thing that is complete in itself

All of something

What an asshole!

Is that a hole in the ground?

He dug out a small hole in the snow.

Watch out for that rabbit hole.

He had a hole in his sock.

Yeah? How many strokes did it take for you to make that hole on the 15th?

Stephen lost the first three holes to Eric.

Jackson Hole is renowned for its skiing.

She had wasted a whole lifetime in this hole of a town.

You’ll have to get yourself out of the hole you’re in.

We’re still three thousand dollars in the hole.

Margaret really blew a hole in that argument.

My clothes are in holes.

Christmas can make a big hole in your savings.

Please, I need that like I need a hole in my head.

Poor thing, he’s a square peg in a round hole.

Verb, intransitive:
He holed in one at the third.

Verb, transitive:
Yeah, we had to hole up in this grungy little town.

A fuel tank was holed by the attack and a fire started.

We took alternate shots from each partner until the ball was holed.

He’s got the whole world in his hands.

He was the nicest person in the whole world.

Many escaped the fire frightened but whole.

After the treatment he felt whole.

The baby cried the whole way home.

He manufactured it all out of whole cloth!

Yup, he gives a whole new meaning to the idea of needing a proofreader.

He’s the man who’s given a whole new meaning to the term cowboy.

It was a whole new idea to me.

He tried to swallow a plum whole.

All those bits and pieces come together to create a whole.

He spent the whole day walking.

She wasn’t telling the whole truth.

Whole shelves in libraries are devoted to the subject.

The effects will last for the whole of his life.

It was a whole lot of money.

Owls usually swallow their prey whole.

I much prefer whole milk.

All people should be whole in body, mind, and spirit.

We’re going to go the whole nine yards on this.

Adjective: holey Noun: wholeness
Phrasal Verb
hole out
hole up
History of the Word:
Old English hol 1 and holian 2 is of Germanic origin and related to the Dutch hol a noun meaning cave, an adjective meaning hollow, and the German hohl meaning hollow from an Indo-European root meaning cover, conceal. Old English hāl is of Germanic origin and related to the Dutch heel and the German heil. The spelling with wh- (reflecting a dialect pronunciation with w-) first appeared in the 15th century.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

“There’s A Hole In The World!” by Barry Lewis (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.