A mental or physical disadvantage, such as blindness or a missing leg, is a handicap: something that disables you in some way. Handicaps can also be imposed artificially to even out the odds in sporting events.

A sporting handicap might be a faster horse carrying an extra weight, or a better golfer having a few strokes added to her score to make things more competitive. Sometimes fate imposes a handicap, as when bad weather handicaps your travel plans, or a strike handicaps the subway system. Handicap comes from the term hand in cap, an ancient British practice in which two bettors placed their money into a hat held by a neutral third party before a bet.

Primary Meanings of handicap

the condition of being unable to perform as a consequence of physical or mental unfitness
injure permanently
something immaterial that interferes with or delays action or progress
put at a disadvantage
advantage given to a competitor to equalize chances of winning
attempt to forecast the winner (especially in a horse race) and assign odds for or against a contestant
Full Definitions of handicap

n the condition of being unable to perform as a consequence of physical or mental unfitness

disability, disablement, impairment
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bandy leg, bandyleg, bow leg, bowleg, genu varum, tibia vara
a leg bowed outward at the knee (or below the knee)
absence of an orgasm in sexual relations
an impairment of language (especially speech production) that is usually due to brain damage
disability of walking
a disability that interferes with or prevents walking
inability to stand due to muscular incoordination
a condition of disability resulting from the loss of one or more limbs
hearing disorder, hearing impairment
impairment of the sense of hearing
impairment of the sense of smell
vision defect, visual defect, visual disorder, visual impairment
impairment of the sense of sight
descensus, prolapse, prolapsus
the slipping or falling out of place of an organ (as the uterus)
hypesthesia, hypoesthesia
impairment of tactile sensitivity; decrease of sensitivity
genu valgum, knock-knee, tibia valga
an inward slant of the thigh
pigeon toes
disability in which the toes are turned inward; often associated with knock-knee
bandy legs, bow leg, bow legs
outward curvature of the legs
a loss (or serious disruption) of organization in some system
an abnormally downward position of the intestines in the abdominal cavity
partial or total loss of sight without pathology of the eye; caused by disease of optic nerve or retina or brain
visual impairment without apparent organic pathology
(ophthalmology) faulty refraction of light rays in the eye as in astigmatism or myopia
visual defect in which the shape and size of an ocular image differ in the two eyes
distorted vision in which straight lines appear curved
absence of the natural lens of the eye (usually resulting from the removal of cataracts)
blindness, cecity, sightlessness
the state of being blind or lacking sight
color blindness, color vision deficiency, colour blindness, colour vision deficiency
genetic inability to distinguish differences in hue
diplopia, double vision
visual impairment in which an object is seen as two objects
abnormal downward or back placement of the tongue
inability to walk
claudication, gameness, gimp, gimpiness, lameness, limping
disability of walking due to crippling of the legs or feet
deafness, hearing loss
partial or complete loss of hearing
conduction deafness, conductive hearing loss, middle-ear deafness
hearing loss due to problems with the bones of the middle ear
auditory hyperesthesia, hyperacusia, hyperacusis
abnormal acuteness of hearing due to increased irritability of the sensory neural mechanism; characterized by intolerance for ordinary sound levels
nerve deafness, sensorineural hearing loss
hearing loss due to failure of the auditory nerve
absence of the sense of smell (as by damage to olfactory nasal tissue or the olfactory nerve or by obstruction of the nasal passages)
lessened sensitivity to odors
day blindness, hemeralopia
inability to see clearly in bright light
hemianopia, hemianopsia
blindness in one half of the visual field of one or both eyes
blindness in one fourth of the visual field
a defect of vision in which objects appear to be distorted; usually due to a defect in the retina
moon blindness, night blindness, nyctalopia
inability to see clearly in dim light; due to a deficiency of vitamin A or to a retinal disorder
damage to the retina resulting from exposure of the eye to the sun without adequate protection
detached retina, detachment of the retina, retinal detachment
visual impairment resulting from the retina becoming separated from the choroid in the back of the eye; treated by photocoagulation
an isolated area of diminished vision within the visual field
tunnel vision
visual impairment involving a loss of peripheral vision
descensus uteri, metroptosis
prolapse of the uterus
nephroptosia, nephroptosis
prolapse of the kidney
drooping of the upper eyelid caused by muscle paralysis and weakness
prolapse of the end of the ureter into the bladder; may obstruct urine flow
prolapse of the urethra into the vagina
visual defect in which objects appear to have a yellowish hue; sometimes occurs in cases of jaundice
Type of:
softness, unfitness
poor physical condition; being out of shape or out of condition (as from a life of ease and luxury)

v injure permanently

disable, incapacitate, invalid
disable by cutting the hock
Type of:
injure, wound
cause injuries or bodily harm to

n something immaterial that interferes with or delays action or progress

balk, baulk, check, deterrent, hinderance, hindrance, impediment
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albatross, millstone
(figurative) something that hinders or handicaps
something that hinders as if with bonds
diriment impediment
(canon law) an impediment that invalidates a marriage (such as the existence of a prior marriage)
something that slows or delays progress
obstacle, obstruction
something immaterial that stands in the way and must be circumvented or surmounted
anything immaterial that severely hinders or confines
barrier, roadblock
any condition that makes it difficult to make progress or to achieve an objective
hang-up, hitch, rub, snag
an unforeseen obstacle
an obstacle that you are expected to overcome
stymie, stymy
a thwarting and distressing situation
Type of:
a factor causing trouble in achieving a positive result or tending to produce a negative result

v put at a disadvantage

hamper, hinder
Type of:
disadvantage, disfavor, disfavour
put at a disadvantage; hinder, harm

n advantage given to a competitor to equalize chances of winning

(games) a handicap or disadvantage that is imposed on a competitor (or a team) for an infraction of the rules of the game
(golf) a handicap of zero strokes
game misconduct
(ice hockey) a penalty that suspends a player for the remainder of a game (but allows the team to send in a substitute for the suspended player)
Type of:
advantage, vantage
the quality of having a superior or more favorable position

v attempt to forecast the winner (especially in a horse race) and assign odds for or against a contestant

Type of:
influence in an unfair way

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