Basket Case Definition

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.
American Heritage
A person lacking all four limbs.
Webster's New World
A person unable to function, esp. because of emotional disturbance.
Webster's New World
Anything that does not function properly.
Webster's New World

(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.

Other Word Forms of Basket Case


basket case

Origin of Basket Case

  • 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

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

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

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basket case