basket case

Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to: navigation, search


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