I'm looking for a single-word or set-phrase defining the advantage given a handicapped person at a competition. I know that most competitions, including the Olympic Games, don't do that as they have a special edition for the disabled. But some competitions, not necessarily sports, still do it.

  • 5
    Errm, you mean handicapping? See e.g. chess handicap.
    – choster
    Nov 5 '15 at 23:09
  • 3
    Obviously handicap is what you want here, but I'll mention positive discrimination: "the ​act of giving ​advantage to those ​groups in ​society that are often ​treated unfairly because of ​their ​race, ​sex, etc." (- Cambridge)
    – JHCL
    Nov 6 '15 at 0:14

I think the term is handicap: (Individual Sports, other than specified).

  • a contest, esp a race, in which competitors are given advantages or disadvantages of weight, distance, time, etc, in an attempt to equalize their chances of winning
  • the advantage or disadvantage prescribed.


  • 2
    @ab2 - And why would it be any different for a handicapped person? The advantage given is based on the presumed capabilities of the individual vs the "average" individual, based either on estimated differences or differences from prior performances.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 6 '15 at 1:23
  • Are the disabled, challenged, handicapped given a handicap based on their disability? I am asking because I don't know, not because I want to nit-pick. I am familiar with a "handicap" being given based on a person's past performance, as in golf or court tennis. As the person improves, the handicap increases.
    – ab2
    Nov 6 '15 at 3:19

In late 18th-century racing, fast horses were laden with weights, to make races more even, and therefore more attractive for wagering. The practice was called handicapping, from a 17th Century lottery game named hand-in-cap, where the name of the winning player was literally pulled from a cap.

Handicapping, giving a strong player a disadvantage so as to make sports more competitive, spread to other sports, notably golf, but also go, chess, croquet, bowling, and polo. A match in which handicapping was used was called a handicap and that word began to refer to the disadvantage itself.

In the mid-20th century, as part of the ongoing euphemism treadmill about human physical and intellectual disabilities, "handicap" was adopted as the catch-all word for such disabilities.

Given this history, it is ironic that “an advantage given a handicapped person” is giving his opponent a handicap.

  • 1
    I would call it apropos rather than ironic. One person is handicapped already so you give a handicap to the other person to make thinks equal.
    – Kevin
    Nov 6 '15 at 2:43

You could say they were given a head start.

  1. an advantage given or acquired in any competition, endeavor, etc., as allowing one or more competitors in a race to start before the others.

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