handicap

Definitions

General English

Health Economics

  • (written as Handicap)
    Disadvantages experienced by an individual arising from impairment or disability. The extent of handicap may be conditional on environment (for example, the nature of work, the values of co-workers) and may include general deleterious effects on the quality of life.

Human Resources

  • noun something which prevents someone from doing something

Medical

  • noun a physical or mental condition which prevents someone from doing some everyday activities
  • verb to prevent someone from doing an everyday activity

Sports

  • noun a contest, especially a horse race, in which individual competitors are given an advantage or disadvantage in an attempt to give every contestant an equal chance
  • noun a compensation in strokes given to a golfer on the basis of skill in past performances

Origin & History of “handicap”

The word handicap originally denoted a sort of game of chance in which one person put up one of his or her personal possessions against an article belonging to someone else (e.g. one might match a gold watch against the other’s horse) and an umpire was appointed to adjudicate on the respective values of the articles. All three parties put their hands into a hat, together with a wager, and on hearing the umpire’s verdict the two opponents had to withdraw them in such a way as to indicate whether they wished to proceed with the game. If they agreed, either in favour of proceeding or against, the umpire took the money; but if they disagreed, the one who wanted to proceed took it. It was the concealing of the hands in the hat that gave the game its name hand in cap, hand i’ cap, source of modern English handicap.

In the 18th century the same term was applied to a sort of horse race between two horses, in which an umpire decided on a weight disadvantage to be imposed on a superior horse and again the owners of the horses signalled their assent to or dissent from his adjudication by the way in which they withdrew their hands from a hat. Such a race became known as a handicap race, and in the 19th century the term handicap first broadened out to any contest in which inequalities are artificially evened out, and was eventually transferred to the ‘disadvantage’ imposed on superior contestants – whence the main modern meaning, ‘disadvantage, disability’.
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