Health promotion seems to be implicit in many nursing theories, but the theoretical and philosophical basis of health promotion in nursing is not always explicitly stated. The interpretation of health promotion is closely related to the interpretation of man, health, illness and nursing. There is a need to clarify, refine and redefine health promotion in nursing because the concept is partly nonspecific and has not been used to identify a distinctive nursing focus. The aim of this study was to formulate a stipulative definition of health promotive nursing with a holistic‐existential approach. A philosophical frame of reference in combination with conceptual analysis and theoretical synthesis were used as the methodological approach. The philosophical framework served as a basis in selecting the nursing theories and influenced the analysis. Two nursing theories and one nursing model were selected due to their influence on Norwegian nursing and because of their philosophical basis. Through analysis and synthesis of the selected nursing theories, the concepts man, health, illness/disease and nursing were analysed. The paper proposes a stipulative definition of health promotion in nursing based on a holistic‐existential approach, supported by five necessary conditions. The definition and conditions needs to be further investigated by both empirical studies and by comparing with other relevant nursing theories, in order to formulate theoretical statements. The proposed definition may be the first step in a process of developing a theoretical framework of health promotive nursing with a holistic‐existential approach.