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Old 05.03.2009, 18:10
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Origin of the Word "wellness"

Does the word "wellness" seem odd to you? What is wrong with the words "health" or "well-being" which are much more commonly used in English-speaking countries, and mean basically the same thing? A letter in English containing this word that a German-speaking colleague just sent to me for me to proof-read made me want to find out once and for all why this is such a common word in continental Europe, when it is not in the UK and most other English-speaking countries as far as I'm aware.

I had thought that the continental Europeans might have recently made-up this trendy word all by themselves, possibly without being aware that there are other far better English words that they could use instead. It turns out that this assumption is wrong. A bit of searching with Google and Wikipedia lead me to a more correct answer:

"Wellness" has been an English word for a long time, although it was rarely used until Dr. Halbert L. Dunn "introduced the concept of wellness (or high-level wellness) in a series of twenty-nine lectures he gave at the Unitarian Church in Arlington County, Virginia in the late 1950s. Those lectures provided the basis for his book, High Level Wellness, which was published in 1961" (quoted from Wikipedia reference-linkHalbert_L._Dunn). "The modern concept of wellness did not, however, become popular until the 1970s" (quoted from Wikipedia reference-linkWellness_(alternative_medicine)). The whole wellness thing expanded to mean many things beyond which Dr. Dunn first intended it to, but it appears that he is responsible for the use of this word in particular rather than any other word. It makes sense that he would use a less common word to refer to his specific type of health and well-being that is distinct from the other generic words.

However, even knowing these origins, it still seems strange that the word is used all over continental Europe, but many of us English-speaking people don't remember ever hearing the word before living here. I found several other English-speaking people who had similar feelings during my web search, here is a good comment from the forum at WordReference.com. And here's an article written on the word wellness.

So, does anyone else have feelings for or against this word? Or any further information about its origins and usage?
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Last edited by ChrisW; 05.03.2009 at 19:13.
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Old 05.03.2009, 18:18
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Re: Origin of the Word "wellness"

When they started using that word here it used to make my blood boil, I often wondered who had invented it and why? Well-being is so much nicer... Then I noticed it spread to other countries so I reckoned it was an American thing rather than a Swiss invention.
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Old 05.03.2009, 18:22
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Re: Origin of the Word "wellness"

I'd say in a way we are so used to making up English words like the word "wellness" and we all understand what it means or at least what it is used for. We don't even ask whether it is actually a real English word...
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Old 05.03.2009, 18:23
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Re: Origin of the Word "wellness"

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When they started using that word here it used to make my blood boil, I often wondered who had invented it and why? Well-being is so much nicer... Then I noticed it spread to other countries so I reckoned it was an American thing rather than a Swiss invention.
Which originally comes from a well?

So then it would be: being like a well.... full of water?
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Old 05.03.2009, 18:30
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Re: Origin of the Word "wellness"

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Which originally comes from a well?

So then it would be: being like a well.... full of water?
If you're making fun of the English word wellbeing, then you should also make fun of the German word "wohlbefinden" which I'm told has the equivalent literal meaning (again, see the post that I linked to above).
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Old 05.03.2009, 18:35
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Re: Origin of the Word "wellness"

So one should say for example:

- I'm sending my wife off for a wellbeing-weekend?
- A wellbeing-spa?

I'm not a native speaker, but for me the wellness fits perfect for it's current position... if you do something good for yourself, you do something for your wellbeing though, no?
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Old 05.03.2009, 18:44
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Re: Origin of the Word "wellness"

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So one should say for example:

- I'm sending my wife off for a wellbeing-weekend?
- A wellbeing-spa?

I'm not a native speaker, but for me the wellness fits perfect for it's current position... if you do something good for yourself, you do something for your wellbeing though, no?
No, health would be the best word in both of those situations: a "health weekend" and a "health spa", I'm pretty sure this is what the British would say.
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Old 05.03.2009, 18:48
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Re: Origin of the Word "wellness"

Oh my goodness? Wellbeing and betterment are key factors leading to wellness!
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Old 05.03.2009, 18:55
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Re: Origin of the Word "wellness"

Chris, would you know what actually happens to a word like "wellness" in a Swiss ad advertising a "Wellness weekend" let's say in the UK ... ???

I mean if an English word doesn't make any sense to native speakers ... this is a bit silly isn't it and bad for business too ? Does it get translated or changed ?
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Old 05.03.2009, 19:00
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Re: Origin of the Word "wellness"

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No, health would be the best word in both of those situations: a "health weekend" and a "health spa", I'm pretty sure this is what the British would say.
I suspect that the tearm 'wellness' could be used in preference to 'health' for legal reasons. You could be feeing well after your visit but not necessarily be made healthy. This would require a medical practitioner.

I have also noticed the term wellness being used on some food products.
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Old 05.03.2009, 19:27
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Re: Origin of the Word "wellness"

Bit off topic here, but it's interesting how some words and expressions come into existence.

I used to have a boss who loved to speak in terms such as "advance to the front". I was intensely annoyed by the wooliness of the phrase and wondered why he couldn't just say "improve" or "become the best".

So I actually thought about the meaning a bit and did some research. what I found was totally fascinating (at least for me).

The word advance hails to medievil military terminology, and is actually a mis-transcription of a word that must have been something like abance, hailing from the Latin ab ante. ie, to go from the front.

The front of course refers to the military meaning of the word, ie, the line where 'our' army is in contact with the enemy army and where the fighting is going on. If a divsion is at the front, and it is instructed to move from the front, this can mean two things. Either it is to retreat away from the front and into safe territory. The correct term for this would be ex ante. The other way to go from the front is to advance into enemy territory, thereby in fact moving the front with it if it is succesful. This would be ab ante. This is of course the origin of the term advance.

The term "advance to the front" is therefore a contradiction in terms. Only you get some strange looks if you start saying, advance from the front.
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Old 05.03.2009, 19:38
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Re: Origin of the Word "wellness"

I was bothered by how 'wellness' was used when I first got here. Have since got used to it. Thanks for the research and interesting findings, OP.

In the same vein, at least 'team' and 'training' are used correctly although I'm still surprised by how many residents here say, "Super!"
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Old 05.03.2009, 19:55
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Re: Origin of the Word "wellness"

In my life, I have seen the word wellness used alot in corporate environments, especially in the US, where medical plans are paid for by the company. There are wellness days, wellness initiatives, wellness seminars. So I never found it so uncommon. The use has increased substantially as company's have tried to control medical costs and offer special events to employees to help them stay more fit *(and theoretically control their medical costs and supposedly increase employee productivity). Some companies even have a wellness coordinator...

Well-being seminars doesn't sound right and health seminars, implies something more formal.. (???)
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Old 05.03.2009, 20:46
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Re: Origin of the Word "wellness"

I never liked this one either, but always assumed it was easier to pronounce for CH's language groups. What I really object to is the French "faire un footing": what kind of an image does that conjure up??
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Old 05.03.2009, 20:54
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Re: Origin of the Word "wellness"

I was told that wellness is a synthesis of well-being and fitness.
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Old 05.03.2009, 20:59
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Re: Origin of the Word "wellness"

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In my life, I have seen the word wellness used alot in corporate environments, especially in the US, where medical plans are paid for by the company. There are wellness days, wellness initiatives, wellness seminars. So I never found it so uncommon. The use has increased substantially as company's have tried to control medical costs and offer special events to employees to help them stay more fit *(and theoretically control their medical costs and supposedly increase employee productivity). Some companies even have a wellness coordinator...

Well-being seminars doesn't sound right and health seminars, implies something more formal.. (???)
I agree, I think wellness is a corporate/marketing thing. It reminds me of when the new Training Manager at a company I worked for changed her title to Learning Manager. Sounds so naff.....and this was an English speaking country.
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Old 05.03.2009, 21:29
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Re: Origin of the Word "wellness"

Where before we would have seen "health products" being sold, I have seen health and wellbeing products, perhaps to bridge the gap to "wellness" for native speakers who think of "well "as an adverb or an adjective...
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Old 06.03.2009, 00:53
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Re: Origin of the Word "wellness"

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I never liked this one either, but always assumed it was easier to pronounce for CH's language groups. What I really object to is the French "faire un footing": what kind of an image does that conjure up??
Yeah, that's a strange one.

My Swiss friends, however, prolifically deny that the Swiss-German word Tschuuten (for playing football) derives from the English "shooting". The say it derives from "schuh", as football is a game played with shoes.

An idea whether there could be an inkling of truth in this one?
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Old 06.03.2009, 01:19
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Re: Origin of the Word "wellness"

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I never liked this one either, but always assumed it was easier to pronounce for CH's language groups. What I really object to is the French "faire un footing": what kind of an image does that conjure up??
The only images that brings up for me is utter confusion. I've not heard of that phrase before, can you please enlighten us.
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Old 06.03.2009, 01:44
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Re: Origin of the Word "wellness"

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The only images that brings up for me is utter confusion. I've not heard of that phrase before, can you please enlighten us.
it means jogging I think
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