Basket-case meaning

One that is in a completely hopeless or useless condition.

A man who became a basket case after his divorce; a country that is an economic basket case.

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Anything that does not function properly.
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A person lacking all four limbs.
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A person unable to function, esp. because of emotional disturbance.
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(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.

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(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.

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Origin of basket-case

  • Originally World War I military slang soldier who has lost all four limbs

    From American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition

  • 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.

    From Wiktionary