Definition of cripple in US English:



[with object]
  • 1Cause (someone) to become unable to move or walk properly.

    ‘a crippling disease’
    • ‘But he refuses to allow his children to be immunised against the disease that crippled him three decades ago.’
    • ‘After the accident that crippled him, Delbert could no longer play mandolin.’
    • ‘In extreme cases, the young soldiers are crippled or even killed.’
    • ‘If he lives, he'll be a burden to her forever, brain damaged and crippled.’
    • ‘Her son was crippled after a road accident when he was five.’
    • ‘One man set the key example by challenging death, fighting a disease that crippled him.’
    • ‘He was crippled, impaired, and everywhere he turned he saw dead ends.’
    • ‘Many survivors from the march have been crippled or maimed, but Ahir escaped with just a fracture in his right leg.’
    • ‘The judges reportedly expressed more concern for the insurance companies who pick up the bill for damages than for those who are crippled or killed.’
    • ‘A sizeable population of the villages neighbouring the border are crippled and maimed.’
    • ‘A young man crippled by a disease of old age may not get the operation he and his family have been hoping and praying for over the last year.’
    • ‘There are copious menu selections for those who might be crippled, incapable or weak.’
    • ‘And the arthritis isn't the typical osteoarthritis that strikes so many older people or the less-common rheumatoid arthritis that can cripple victims as young as six months.’
    • ‘A rude person with a fate of becoming disabled will eventually be crippled, but because of his/her personality not many people will care.’
    • ‘The young crippled men who have been admitted to the home also enjoyed the music - they clapped and cheered as the band played.’
    • ‘People are crippled and occasionally killed playing contact sports such as football and rugby, yet no one would suggest they are banned.’
    • ‘When she was too crippled to walk more than a few steps, she still spread her husband's shirts out on the kitchen table and ironed them.’
    • ‘Rising to leave, he winced as his legs cramped, almost crippling him with their intense pain.’
    • ‘I realized that he was quite crippled from the accident.’
    • ‘Myself personally I have told my husband that if anything happens he is not to let me come around if I am going to be crippled badly and brain damaged.’
    having a disability, wheelchair-using, paralysed
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Cause severe and disabling damage to (a machine)
      ‘over-lubrication might well lead to piston seizure, crippling the engine’
      • ‘Did the sudden motion cripple its electrical systems?’
      • ‘The Obliterator was severely damaged in the ramming, but the alien vessel was crippled.’
      • ‘With 24 actual plies, it can withstand severe cuts that would cripple a tire with just 12 actual plies.’
      • ‘Finally, we should spread our eggs over many baskets, so that no single breakdown cripples our electricity grid.’
      • ‘The first part of their plan was to disable all orbital satellites around the earth, to cripple the technology of advanced secular nations.’
      • ‘There was little actual shot damage, but there were crippling collisions.’
      • ‘Only four or five compromised client machines can cripple a server; in this way it's a fiendishly economical attack.’
      • ‘They aimed to cripple the machinery of war, not simply broaden disdain for it.’
      • ‘Dunkerque was only slightly damaged, but was crippled by torpedo aircraft during a second attack on 6 July.’
      • ‘We found that almost a dozen cameras were not attached to a recording machine, six could barely see in the dark and others were crippled by mechanical faults.’
      • ‘We must cripple the American war machine and lend all possible material support to those suffering its wrath.’
      • ‘In today's high-speed networked computing environment, both inadvertent damage and malicious attacks can cripple a system in the blink of an eye.’
      • ‘The firewalls on a PC are also disabled or crippled to ensure that the virus can replicate or allow external connections to a back-door installed on the PC.’
      • ‘In the meantime, a missile salvo from Comet struck the already damaged Claymore, crippling the ship.’
      • ‘The aim is to damage an adversary's capacity to attack by crippling its advancing armed forces.’
      • ‘Because of this bad judgment, my ship is crippled and we have no way to repair the damage with anything we have on board.’
      • ‘The Shattering Strike took another series of hits, which crippled its engines and left it's weaponry in ruins.’
      • ‘Qualitatively, the Iraqi military machine is crippled, with no spare parts for its ancient equipment.’
      • ‘However, it was modified to accept an electron bolt gun, giving it the ability to disable (/ cripple / damage) much larger ships.’
      • ‘Clearly, clamping locks on electronic equipment and intentionally crippling CDs wouldn't increase sales.’
    2. 1.2 Deprive of the ability to function normally.
      ‘developing countries are crippled by their debts’
      • ‘The student loan system may help us through our years as students, but cripples us after we leave.’
      • ‘A huge proportion of its income goes to finance an increasingly lame army, crippled by the cessation of Soviet support.’
      • ‘This may be true, but the damage imposed by the bombs has still crippled the London Underground.’
      • ‘It proved surprisingly easy to cripple vital services to households and businesses, and to disable or disrupt major public utilities.’
      • ‘A blockade would cripple Taiwan economically without damaging its infrastructure.’
      • ‘We have developing countries being crippled by debt, so we need a more value-led globalisation.’
      • ‘Accountants uncovered a string of irregularities in the company's figures and crippling debts.’
      • ‘News of the loan comes just days after prosecutors at his child sex-abuse trial claimed the singer has crippling debts of £155 million.’
      • ‘These are countries badly affected by governmental mismanagement, failing economies due to debt and crippling poverty.’
      • ‘Hundreds of farmers, who face crippling debts and bank interest payments, have said that the flood damage will force them into bankruptcy and off the land.’
      • ‘We may be young and fairly likely to stay healthy, but one poorly timed illness or accident can cripple us financially before we've had the chance to establish ourselves.’
      • ‘Now British players are calling for government intervention, warning that the foreign invasion could cripple the development of the game, despite a sharp rise in popularity in recent years.’
      • ‘There was a chance, many hoped, that someone might finally take seriously the huge bad debts crippling the banking system, and the steady flow of mass sackings in a society used to full employment.’
      • ‘It could be crippled if relatives of the passengers sue for damages.’
      • ‘Landlords of an ancient Lancaster pub say work on a multi-million pound apartment development next door is crippling their family business.’
      • ‘With the county club faced with crippling debts there are reports that they may have to get rid of nine players when contracts are discussed in a few weeks' time.’
      • ‘The country's economy is crippled by debt repayments greater than the total amount spent on health and education.’
      • ‘Business and consumer confidence is fragile, and there are fears that high debts could cripple future spending.’
      • ‘The club has crippling debts of more than £17,000 following 20 years of being run at a loss by members.’
      • ‘In addition, the Taipei Railway Station was flooded and valuable equipment damaged, crippling the MRT system.’
      ruin, destroy, wipe out, crush, break
      View synonyms


offensive, dated
  • 1A person who is unable to walk or move properly because of disability or injury to their back or legs.

    1. 1.1 A person with a severe limitation of a specified kind.
      ‘an emotional cripple’


The word cripple has long been in use to refer to ‘a person unable to walk due to illness or disability’ and is recorded as early as AD 950. In the 20th century, the term acquired offensive connotations and has now been largely replaced by broader terms such as ‘disabled person.’


Old English: from two words, crypel and crēopel, both of Germanic origin and related to creep.