basket case


plural basket cases
informal : a person who is functionally incapacitated from extreme nervousness, emotional distress, mental or physical overwork, etc.
I was so worried about losing my job that I was a complete basket case.
At 6 o'clock nearly every morning, Harvey Mackay hits the floor running. In a few minutes he's off on his seven-miler. "With all the traveling I do, if I didn't run I'd be a basket case," says the man whose dizzy day of activities usually doesn't wind up until one the next morning.Jim Braham
Needless to say, I was a basket case for the rest of the afternoon and evening, convinced that at any moment the man would reappear at my window.Stephanie Booth
informal : something (such as a business or government) that is dysfunctional, run-down, or close to failure
But the utility industry is a financial basket case. Once the bluest of blue chips, utility stocks and bonds have lost their luster.Chemical and Engineering News
Despite its perceived liabilities, Poland has made astounding progress in just two years. It was an economic basket case until the end of 1989, with hyperinflation, bare shelves and food lines.Blaine Harden
Any antique airplane that can be located is sold (even basket cases) at high premium to enthusiastic antiquers who fly them with pride.Francis Rourke
dated, informal + offensive : a person who has all four limbs amputated

Examples of basket case in a Sentence

I was so worried about losing my job that I was a complete basket case. a business that was once very successful but is now a financial basket case
Recent Examples on the Web When China was an economic basket case, 100 miles of ocean was more than enough deterrent. Roger Wicker, WSJ, 4 May 2022 Communist China was a basket case under one-man rule. Michael Schuman, The Atlantic, 21 June 2022 Sri Lanka is an international basket case whose foreign reserves — which once stood at over $6 billion under the Rajapaksas — have dwindled to almost nothing. New York Times, 29 May 2022 Naím was once, in a happier day, the finance minister of Venezuela, and Hugo Chávez, who took a troubled but essentially prosperous country with a long democratic tradition and turned it into an international basket case, comes in for close study. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, 16 May 2022 Credit Suisse has become a European banking basket case. Rochelle Toplensky, WSJ, 27 Apr. 2022 The village was literally a basket case, bereft of water, food and all hope. Steve West, Sun Sentinel, 21 Apr. 2022 Venezuela, another socialist basket case, slips to the second-most-miserable country in the world after six years in the pole position. Steve H. Hanke, National Review, 16 Mar. 2022 Today, a mere million dollars barely buys a Miura basket case. Robert Ross, Robb Report, 17 Jan. 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'basket case.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1919, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of basket case was in 1919

Dictionary Entries Near basket case

Cite this Entry

“Basket case.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Apr. 2024.

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