All humans have one or more natural/inherent deficiencies. All humans share natural deficiencies. For example, unlike the eagle eye, we were not born capable of seeing things over long distances, which is why binoculars were created for that purpose.

But some deficiencies are not innate and some people have these deficiencies due to diseases or other causes. For example, some people wear glasses if they are short-sighted.

My sight was great when I was younger, but now I have to wear glasses. A friend of mine used to have perfect hearing, but after an accident, his hearing was damaged and now he cannot hear very good. And I know another guy who after a plastic surgery lost his sense of smell. All these "deficiencies" have the feature I want a word for. They are not natural. We are not born with them. Not everyone suffers from them, and only some people suffer part of their lives.

  • What are these kinds of deficiencies or inabilities called in English?

The word "acquired" has a positive connotation; for example, we acquire skills, not disabilities. The word "unnatural" has irrelevant connotations too.

The word "deficiency" might not be a good choice here. But that is not the point of my question. I want a word (an adjective) to use as opposed to natural in the aforementioned sense.

  • 2
    So "acquired immunodeficiency syndrome" is an "ability"?
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 4, 2017 at 20:25
  • 3
    (Your basic premise is flawed.)
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 4, 2017 at 21:38
  • 1
    Given that more than half of people need "glasses", one could argue that the people that do not need them are deficient/unnatural.
    – jxh
    Nov 5, 2017 at 17:33
  • 2
    Handicap for slight or injury drastic disabilities are prolly the words you need. You should have been able to find that out from a thesaurus, if not a simple dictionary. As Hot Licks said, your basic premise is flawed. For instance, that we cannot see over long distances is no kind of deficiency, even though it might well be called an inherent limitation. FYI deficiency is a failing or shortcoming as measured against what something should be, not what it might by chance have evolved to be, had circumstances been different. Nov 5, 2017 at 21:24
  • 2
    I think one could argue that poor eyesight is often "normal' because it can be caused by a normal variance in the size of the eye as well as by ageing, which is a normal process. Otherwise we would need to say that anyone who can't run as fast as Usain Bolt is deficient. Similarly, many diseases are normal, sickle cell anemia for example. The fact that something isn't "in all people" does not mean it's not normal.
    – Al Maki
    Nov 6, 2017 at 17:03

4 Answers 4


The word "acquired" has a positive connotation; for example, we acquire skills, not disabilities. The word "unnatural" has irrelevant connotations too.

This is the fundamental flaw in your question. MedicineNet gives the medical definition of acquired as:

Not inherited, or present at birth (congenital), but developing after birth.

This does not imply that all acquired traits are "positive" or "beneficial". There is "acquired immunodeficiency syndrome" (AIDS), and this page lists 10 more diseases that are considered to fall into this category, including Lyme disease, hep C, and the flu. Even the "common cold" is acquired.

So the word you're looking for is acquired.


Since eyesight is variable, due to the shape of the eyeball, it is not really the case that many of the variations are 'deficiencies', anymore than differences in stature are a matter of 'deficiency'.

These are 'attributes' not deficiencies, for who made any rules or regulations about how far one is supposed to be able to see or as to how tall one is meant to stand ?

Attribute : quality, character, or characteristic ascribed to someone or something


  • This is more of a comment as of an answer.
    – Sasan
    Nov 4, 2017 at 20:38
  • 1
    @Sasan I will happily wait and see how the votes go.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 4, 2017 at 20:54
  • 1
    I upvoted this answer for the word 'attribute' and for 'for who made any rules or regulations about how far one is supposed to be able to see or as to how tall one is meant to stand ?' Nov 4, 2017 at 21:58
  • Your vote and comment are appreciated. @Clare
    – Nigel J
    Nov 4, 2017 at 22:05

A somewhat outmoded term that immediately pops into my mind due to my familiarity with Aristotelian systems of thought is 'privation,' taken to mean not only an economic hardship but a corroding of natural fullness.

Another term that might be used is 'corruption' (adj. corrupted), not taken with the moral connotation but instead with a naturalistic connotation (think of Augustine's use of 'corruption' to describe the human condition).

Unfortunately the philosophical move away from natures in science and popular culture have led to a distance between creatures and their well-being. Thus we observe the move away from words describing the good of people themselves and move towards words primarily with economic/political implications.

The closest we might get nowadays are the words 'defective,' 'failing,' 'flawed,' etc.

  • It is clear that the question asks for an adjective!
    – Sasan
    Nov 5, 2017 at 6:59
  • 1
    @Sasan Actually, it's not clear. But I'll amend my answer to include the adjective form where it makes sense.
    – Byday
    Nov 5, 2017 at 16:28

This captures I think the essence of your point, that one may be born of grow to maturity with certain capabilities and then at some later point, find that there are new limitations on some of those abilities.

  • So you were born with the ability to fly, but lost it somewhere along the way?
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 8, 2017 at 0:28

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.