Imagine the situation in which a small child participates in a game with teens or adults. Perhaps the child doesn't know or can't follow all the rules strictly. Or in sports, this child has physical limitations compared to the older, bigger, more coordinated participants. The child ends up playing a special role in the game. In Spanish this is called caballito blanco, palomita blanca, cascarón de huevo, etc., depending on the country and region. The person in this role is permitted to follow the rules of the game more loosely. The term can be used more generally, also, to refer to anyone who's given extra leeway for some reason or other.

What's the term for this in English?

Bonus question: How did the term originate?

This question was inspired by https://spanish.stackexchange.com/q/22950/9385.


I wonder if this would work:

wild card

My son sometimes used to beat me at Fish Eat Fish because he played so unpredictably. He was a total wild card.



  • I'm familiar with the concept; I'm not sure there's any sort of 'standard' term for it in English. Nov 29 '17 at 14:22
  • 7
    Sometimes such a player is given a handicap (different victory critera), but I know of no common term for the player who receives the handicap.
    – Davo
    Nov 29 '17 at 14:55
  • 1
    The term 'advantage' is also often used in such cases.
    – Lee Leon
    Nov 29 '17 at 15:38
  • 4
    I don't know of a specifc word, but we might say 'we cut them some slack'. I don't know the origin of this but suspect a nautical origin?
    – David G
    Jan 12 '18 at 2:30
  • You mention the word in your question - 'Leeway'... '.. The children were given extra leeway during the game against the older boys...'.
    – GoodJuJu
    Jan 15 '18 at 22:17

In horse racing and golf there are well-defined formal systems for handicapping stronger entrants to make the contest more even. In golf this is so well defined that a golfer will 'play off' a specific 'handicap' which reduces as they improve until they become 'scratch' golfers who are always disadvantaged unless they are playing other scratch golfers.

What you are talking about is similar in that the caballito blanco is, effectively, 'playing off a handicap' by being allowed to play to a more relaxed version of the rules than the other players. I can't think of a normal English term for someone in that position but you could try handicap player as in golf. The only problem is that it could be interpreted as saying that the caballito blanco is a handicap to the team.


The question did make me think of the Dutch expression "voor spek en bonen meedoen" (lit. "to participate for bacon and beans"). In Dutch it is used for comparable situations, so I usume it would be a good translation into Dutch.

Starting there, on http://www.dwotd.nl/tag/voor-spek-en-bonen I found some English posibilities:

  • not for real
  • it counts for nothing
  • just for show
  • for decoration only
  • I think you misunderstood the meaning of 'caballito blanco'. It doesn't mean (what I gather from your suggestions) 'something or situation that is minimal and unimportant'. It means 'a beginner in a game that you give a lot of leeway to in scoring so that they don't get discouraged playing the game with more experienced players'. Very different ideas.
    – Mitch
    Feb 2 '18 at 13:46



  1. A new recruit, especially in the army or police.

    1.1 A member of a sports team in their first full season. OOD

Greenhorn comes to mind.

A person who is new to or inexperienced at a particular activity. OOD

Neophyte and novice also come to mind but more formal in tone.

Also (affectionately) pipsqueak

A person considered to be insignificant, especially because they are small or young.

  • That doesn't seem to capture the sense of benign indulgence in the source - I think of those terms as a bit more judgmental.
    – user888379
    Jan 22 '18 at 21:20
  • I added rookie in response. Sports are competitive and such terms tend to be wry in nature. Jan 22 '18 at 21:50
  • 2
    None of those terms indicates that the rules are being relaxed to allow the person to be more competitive. Pitchers do not throw easier pitches to rookies.
    – swbarnes2
    Jan 22 '18 at 22:21

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