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Definition of handicap
1a condition that markedly restricts a person’s ability to function physically, mentally, or socially: he was born with a significant visual handicap
a circumstance that makes progress or success difficult: not being able to drive was something of a handicap
2a disadvantage imposed on a superior competitor in sports such as golf, horse racing, and competitive sailing in order to make the chances more equal.
a race or contest in which a handicap is imposed: [in names]: the National Hunt Handicap Chase
the extra weight allocated to be carried in a race by a racehorse on the basis of its previous form to make its chances of winning the same as those of the other horses.
the 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): he plays off a handicap of 10
verb (handicaps, handicapping, handicapped)
act as an impediment to: lack of funding has handicapped the development of research
place (someone) at a disadvantage: her lack of formal training handicapped her
out of the handicap
Horse Racing having a handicap rating that would merit carrying a weight below the minimum specified for a race: the horse was 13 lb out of the handicap
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