basket case

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See also: basketcase


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. (slang, potentially offensive) One made powerless or ineffective, as by nerves, panic, stress or exhaustion.
    She was a complete basket case the morning of her wedding.
  2. An institution or country in a bad condition or difficult situation (economically, financially or otherwise)
    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