basket case

plural basket cases

Definition of basket case

1a 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
b 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
2 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 Ukraine’s faltering efforts to enact policies meant to eradicate official corruption have stymied international financial aid and investment, making Ukraine a lingering economic basket case three decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Alan Cullison, WSJ, "U.S. Bars Ukrainian Banking Tycoon Over Corruption Allegations," 5 Mar. 2021 For the past decade, international economists and ratings agencies have been blaming Italy’s gigantic debt load for making the nation the most worrisome basket case among Europe’s major economies. Shawn Tully, Fortune, "The U.S. now has a debt level that rivals Italy’s," 14 Jan. 2021 However, the warning signs were ignored, and that’s why EDD is now an operational basket case. Dan Walters,, "California’s sorry performance in unemployment claims adds to the misery," 22 Oct. 2020 Illinois is the nation’s leading fiscal basket case, with runaway pension liabilities and public-union control of Springfield. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, "The Capital Note: Tax Hikes & the Treasury Hedge," 6 Oct. 2020 The flip side of that argument was that D.C. was a fiscal basket case, wholly unsuited to be a state of its own without huge federal subsidies. Dan Mclaughlin, National Review, "The District of Columbia Should Not Be a State," 1 Oct. 2020 The stock-trading app Robinhood quietly turned off a feature on Friday that allowed anyone to see which companies shares were surging in popularity—a feature that helped fuel recent improbable rallies in basket case firms like Hertz and Kodak. Jeff John Roberts, Fortune, "Robinhood will no longer share stock ‘popularity data’ with sites like Robintrack," 10 Aug. 2020 Far from being a basket case, Russia enters the crisis with bulging financial reserves, its big companies nearly free of debt and all but self-sufficient in agriculture. Andrew E. Kramer, New York Times, "Thanks to Sanctions, Russia Is Cushioned From Virus’s Economic Shocks," 20 Mar. 2020 More importantly, the difference between becoming a success story like T-Mobile and a basket case like Sprint isn’t just network quality. Washington Post, "T-Mobile Swagger Is What Dish Is Missing," 29 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'basket case.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of basket case

1919, in the meaning defined at sense 2

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Time Traveler for basket case

Time Traveler

The first known use of basket case was in 1919

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Last Updated

19 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Basket case.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for basket case

basket case


English Language Learners Definition of basket case

: a person who is very nervous, tired, etc., and is not able to think or act normally
: something (such as a company or a government) that is in very bad condition and close to failure

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