basket case

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Alternative forms[edit]


The term originated from WWI, indicating a soldier missing both his arms and legs, who needed to be literally carried around in a litter or "basket." Today it indicates a state of helplessness similar to the metaphoric removal of the appendages, most frequently in the context of mental health or aptitude.


basket case ‎(plural basket cases)

  1. (idiomatic, slang, potentially offensive) One made powerless or ineffective, as by nerves, panic or stress.
    She was a complete basket case the morning of her wedding.
  2. (idiomatic) A country in a difficult economic or financial situation.
    This country is a financial basket case, a country so broke that it should be a perfect warning to lenders.
    Some countries are breadbaskets, others basket cases.


  • (one made powerless or ineffective, as by nerves, panic or stress): emotional cripple