What is the word (or expression?) for an artificially introduced advantage for a player in a sport or a game, with purpose to level the chances?

I tried thesaurus for antonyms of handicap, but it gives only "advantage", "benefit" and "help" and none of them seem to fit the bill for this specific sense.

(or did I reject one of these antonyms wrongly maybe?)

  • 2
    The word is handicap: Merriam-Webster 1b: an advantage given or disadvantage imposed usually in the form of points, strokes, weight to be carried, or distance from the target or goal – Peter Shor Oct 27 '12 at 14:03
  • 1
    @PeterShor Perhaps, it is a leverage given either way. One helping or hindering the player is handicap. – Kris Oct 27 '12 at 14:22
  • 1
    I would go with 'advantage'. – Roaring Fish Oct 27 '12 at 15:24
  • 1
    Yes, 'handicap' is technically for both good and bad, but is more commonly thought of as a detriment. 'Advantage' goes in the positive direction. You've used 'advantage' yourself here. – Mitch Oct 27 '12 at 15:33
  • @Mitch: I used advantage + lengthy description what kind of advantage. – SF. Oct 27 '12 at 16:27

You can't find a consistent antonym for handicap, because it bears two senses, which you are (I think) confusing.

As a noun:

  1. In sports, a handicap may be either an advantage or a disadvantage, assigned to ‘level the playing field’ between competitors of unequal abilities.

    • In golf, for instance, in which the lowest score wins, handicap is an advantage: a duffer receives a large handicap which is subtracted from his score.

    • In horse-racing, on the other hand, handicap is a disadvantage: a well-regarded horse must carry more weight than a less-well-regarded competitor.

Handicap is thus the proper term for your ‘artificially introduced advantage for a player in a sport or a game, with purpose to level the chances’

  1. Outside of these contexts, however, handicap as a noun almost always signifies a disadvantage—a physical, intellectual, or social disability.

    “The Ph.D. degree is a handicap in the job market for clinical medical physicists” –article in a professional journal

As a verb:

  1. When it is a contest of some sort which is handicapped, it is usually sense 1 which is in play: ‘to weigh relative abilities and assign appropriate advantages or disadvantages to the contestants’. This use may be either literal, in the case of sports where a handicap system is in place, or figurative in other cases—in the calculation of betting odds, for instance, or in predicting the outcome of an election.
  2. When it is an individual person or party or movement engaged in some striving which is handicapped, sense 2 is usually in play: ‘to impose a disadvantage upon’.

    My ambition is handicapped by my laziness –Charles Bukowski

| improve this answer | |

As noted in comments, a handicap is “an advantage given or disadvantage imposed”, rather than merely one or the other. At more length, from wiktionary:

  1. An allowance of a certain amount of time or distance in starting, granted in a race (or other contest of skill) to the competitor possessing disadvantages; or an additional weight or other hindrance imposed upon the one possessing advantages, in order to equalize, as much as possible, the chances of success. [eg] The older boy won, even though his opponent had been granted a handicap of five meters.

Since handicaps typically are biases applied “to equalize, as much as possible, the chances of success”, as the opposite of a handicapped race or match one might consider adjectives unbiased (“impartial or without bias or prejudice”) or unhandicapped; and as the pendulum swings farther away from fairness or equal chances, and one competitor or another gains an unfair advantage, might consider those disadvantaged as unfairly handicapped.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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