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1. Someone who is viewed as emotionally unstable and unable to function in normal situations. Sarah was so nervous on her first day of high school that she burst into tears after walking into the wrong classroom. Her classmates looked at her like she was a complete basket case.
2. A country, business, or other entity that is facing economic strife. If the unemployment rate doesn't decrease soon, the country is going to become a financial basket case.
Fig. a person who is a nervous wreck. (Formerly referred to a person who is physically disabled in all four limbs because of paralysis or amputation.) After that all-day meeting, I was practically a basket case. My weeks of worry were so intense that I was a real basket case afterwards.
A person or thing too impaired to function. For example, The stress of moving twice in one year left her a basket case, or The republics of the former Soviet Union are economic basket cases. Originating in World War I for a soldier who had lost all four limbs in combat and consequently had to be carried in a litter ("basket"), this term was then transferred to an emotionally or mentally unstable person and later to anything that failed to function. [Slang; second half of 1900s]
a basket case
1. If a country or organization is a basket case, its economy or finances are in a very bad state. The popular image about this region a few years ago was that it was a basket case. In the seventies, the Post Office was regarded as a basket case, doomed to decline by the competition from phone, fax and modem.
2. If a person is a basket case, they are crazy. Mary comes to work in tears every day — I tell you, she's turning into a basket case. Note: This expression was originally used to describe someone, especially a soldier, who had lost all four limbs. It may have come about because some of these people had to be carried around in baskets.
basket casea person or thing regarded as useless or unable to cope. informal
The expression evolved from a US slang term for a soldier who had lost all four limbs in action, and was thus unable to move independently.
2004 Royal Academy Magazine The transformation of Liverpool from urban basket case to textbook case for design-led regeneration has been one of the most remarkable turnarounds in recent city history.
a ˈbasket case(informal)
1 a country or an organization whose economic situation is very bad: A few years ago, the country was an economic basket case, but now things are different.
2 a person who is slightly crazy and who has problems dealing with situations: ‘How did the interview go?’ ‘Terrible! I’m sure they thought I was a complete basket case.’
n. a person who is a nervous wreck. (Formerly referred to a person who is totally physically disabled.) After that meeting, I was practically a basket case.
An individual too impaired to function. This term dates from World War I, when it denoted a soldier who had lost both arms and legs and had to be carried off the field in a basket or litter. In civilian usage the term was applied to an emotionally unstable person who is unable to cope. Today it is used still more loosely to describe an attack of nerves, as in “The mother of the bride was a basket case.”