Hale, Hardy, and Hearty

If you’re hale, you’re well.  And some people like to use the expression “hale and hearty.” That sounds right, doesn’t it? Maybe they are thinking it means they have a healthy heart, but the word hearty is incorrect.

When we talk about someone being bold, vigorous, or robust, we say they are hardy. That’s quite a bit different from hearty, which means warm and enthusiastic.

  • He gave me a hearty greeting when I arrived.
  • She’s a hearty gal—strong and healthy.

Hearty can also mean nourishing and satisfying, when talking about food or appetite:

  • That sure looks like a hearty meal—plenty of different roasted meats and lots of carbs!
  • Just looking at that spread gives me a hearty appetite; I could eat a horse!

It’s true: you could be a hardy gal if it’s meant that you’re bold, vigorous, or robust. And because of this overlap, some writers avoid straying into this melee and opt for some alternate word choice to be clearer in meaning.

So keep in mind that if you want to talk about something that’s hale and hardy, be sure to spell it hardy. We want to eat heart-healthy foods, not hearty ones (can you picture a warm, enthusiastic vegetable?) We want to plant hardy plants in our gardens that will hold up under cold weather or high winds.

Some people could hardly be hard pressed to care much about these nuances. But conscientious writers will use these words correctly.

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  1. Hale and hardy? Um…no.

    The idiom is, unquestionably,’hale and hearty.’

    The meaning of the individual words both stem for their old and middle English meanings – i.e., to be safe/unharmed (hale) and ‘hearty’ (spirited/courageous) – so in combination, the idiom is to demonstrate a person who is in both good physical health and spirits.

    I suppose you could use ‘hale and hardy’ – but it would not carry quite the same meaning as the idiom.

  2. The idiom definitely is ‘Hale and hearty’. I totally agree with you Piper McDermot. My mother, who is over eighty years old now, often started the letters she wrote to me, decades ago, with “I hope this letter meets you hale and hearty”.
    ‘Hale’ means good health or well-being, while ‘hearty’ means vibrant and cheerful.
    The combination of the two words touches on the physical state and emotional state respectively.

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