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See also: basketcase



Alternative formsEdit


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.[1]


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basket case (plural basket cases)

  1. (slang, potentially offensive) One made powerless or ineffective, as by nerves, panic, stress or exhaustion.
    Synonym: emotional cripple
    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.
    • 2018 December 21, Stuart Jeffries, “Germany’s Hidden Crisis by Oliver Nachtwey review – social decline in the heart of Europe”, in The Guardian[1]:
      The cover of Oliver Nachtwey’s book depicts a VW Beetle, emblem of Teutonic manufacturing prowess since Hitler’s day, driving off a cliff. [] The Germany described by this Frankfurt School professor is a basket case – post-growth, post-democratic, with the first fascists in the Bundestag since the Third Reich.



  1. ^ basket case” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2019.