Definition of handicap in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈhandēˌkap/


1A circumstance that makes progress or success difficult: a criminal conviction is a handicap and a label that may stick forever
More example sentences
  • The lack of capacity and facilities is also a handicap to success in the lower divisions.
  • Losing over half-a-team in a year has proved too difficult a handicap for Fenagh to overcome and they shipped a heavy defeat from the champions last week.
  • Although there are many higher levels on which rebirth can be achieved, they are potentially a handicap to spiritual progress.
impediment, hindrance, obstacle, barrier, bar, obstruction, encumbrance, constraint, restriction, check, block, curb;
disadvantage, drawback, stumbling block, difficulty, shortcoming, limitation;
ball and chain, albatross, millstone (around someone's neck), burden, liability
literary trammel
2often offensive A condition that markedly restricts a person’s ability to function physically, mentally, or socially: he was born with a significant visual handicap
More example sentences
  • Believed to be a handicap, this mental condition is often misunderstood and it is hoped that mainstream films like this one will draw public attention to it.
  • Students requiring additional financial support may have severe behaviour and emotional difficulties, hearing or visual disabilities, autism or have multiple handicaps.
  • Still, she suffers from severe mental and physical handicaps.
disability, physical abnormality, mental abnormality, defect, impairment, affliction, deficiency, dysfunction
3A disadvantage imposed on a superior competitor in sports such as golf, horse racing, and competitive sailing in order to make the chances more equal.
Example sentences
  • Battling against painful odds to remain in the game the little genius still plays off a scratch handicap hoping to comeback to competitive golf.
  • He plays off a golf handicap of 14, and is an avid GAA, soccer and rugby follower.
  • We are also affiliated to the Lancashire Union of Golf Clubs so handicaps can be obtained.
3.1A race or contest in which a disadvantage is imposed on a superior competitor: [in names]: the trophy for the $75,000 Ak-Sar-Ben Handicap
More example sentences
  • Having broken his maiden tag at Ripon on his second outing, Guto was then beaten narrowly at Musselburgh before returning to Ripon to gain a gritty success in a nursery handicap.
  • The eight-year-old fulfilled the promise of several creditable placed efforts with an overdue success in a valuable handicap at Hamilton last week.
  • She followed a cantering success in a Roscommon handicap with a smooth victory in a conditions event at Leopardstown ten days ago.
3.2The extra weight to be carried in a race by a racehorse on the basis of its previous performance to make its chances of winning the same as those of the other horses.
Example sentences
  • I am starting this exercise program with a handicap - I am carrying 80 extra pounds.
  • He had an unbeatable combination of jumping ability, stamina and pace, as well as the courage to carry crushing burdens in handicaps, in which he usually conceded the full weight range to his rivals.
  • If a horse is given a high handicap, his chances of winning can be destroyed.
3.3The number of strokes by which a golfer normally exceeds par for a course (used as a method of enabling players of unequal ability to compete with each other): [in combination]: his game struggles along in the 20-handicap range
More example sentences
  • Golfers of various handicaps were asked to putt on the greens and choose the faster green.
  • Under the U.S. Golf Association's ESC system, players with course handicaps of 9 or less can post no more than a double bogey on any hole.
  • John Preddy was also in the frame when he again shot 38 points, maintaining his steady progress off his 32 handicap.

verb (handicaps, handicapping, handicapped)

[with object]
1Act as an impediment to: lack of funding has handicapped the development of research
More example sentences
  • But its development is being handicapped by bureaucracy.
  • This is clearly a measure of last resort and its application is handicapped by the postoperative development of bronchiolitis obliterans.
  • Cannabis use in young people remains a controversial area, and absence of good data has handicapped the development of rational public health policies.
hamper, impede, hinder, impair, hamstring;
restrict, check, obstruct, block, curb, bridle, hold back, constrain, trammel, limit, encumber
informal stymie
1.1Place (someone) at a disadvantage: without a good set of notes you will handicap yourself when it comes to exams
More example sentences
  • And I think those people handicapped by the lack of a diploma can easily bypass this hurdle so long as the stress is placed more on a certificate than on real abilities.
  • In essence, his players were handicapped by their inexperience and a lack of awareness what was required to succeed at the highest level.
  • People don't realise how much tendinitis can handicap you throughout your time in the game.


Mid 17th century: from the phrase hand in cap; originally a pastime in which one person claimed an article belonging to another and offered something in exchange, any difference in value being decided by an umpire. All three deposited forfeit money in a cap; the two opponents showed their agreement or disagreement with the valuation by bringing out their hands either full or empty. If both were the same, the umpire took the forfeit money; if not, it went to the person who accepted the valuation. The term handicap race was applied (late 18th century) to a horse race in which an umpire decided the weight to be carried by each horse, the owners showing acceptance or dissent in a similar way: hence in the late 19th century handicap came to mean the extra weight given to the superior horse.

  • This word derives from a old pastime that involved one person claiming an article belonging to another and offering something in exchange. The participants then appointed an umpire to adjudicate the difference in value, and then all three deposited forfeit money in a cap, the two opponents showing their agreement or disagreement with the valuation by putting in their hands and then bringing them out either full or empty. This sport was called hand in cap, later reduced to handicap. The word is first recorded in the mid 17th century, but the practice appears in the 14th-century poem Piers Plowman, and is known elsewhere in continental Europe from an early date. The handicap race (originally handicap match), in which an umpire determines what weight each horse carries in order to equalize their chances, dates from the mid 18th century.

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Syllabification: hand·i·cap

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