- a person or a thing that is not able to function properly
- a failing scheme.
- You should accept this job offer since this is your first job and that organization is a real basket case.
- Knowing that he is such a basket case, how could she accept to marry him?
After the First World War, the United States military had many casualties. The phrase was published in 1919 by the US Command for public information which denied that they have such service men or ‘basket cases’. It wasn’t ever publicly used to refer to any actual person.
It was an unpopular phrase which was used for men with no arms or legs and was used again after World War Two. Again it was denied that the US army had any such servicemen. Later this phrase lost some of its dark aura to mean something or someone who is unable to carry their own weight and is failing.
It originated as being applied to people, soldiers in particular, who had lost limbs and could not function by themselves and had to be carried. The phrase is less used for people now and refers to failing organizations more.