[krip-uh l]


verb (used with object), crip·pled, crip·pling.

to make a cripple of; lame.
to disable; impair; weaken.


Carpentry. jack1(def 29).

Origin of cripple

before 950; Middle English cripel, Old English crypel; akin to creep
Related formscrip·pler, nouncrip·pling·ly, adverbun·crip·pled, adjective

Usage note

When referring to someone for whom it is difficult or impossible to walk or move without some kind of external aid like crutches or a wheelchair, sensitivity is called for. The words cripple and crippled are no longer considered appropriate. Although these terms have been in use since before the year 950, since the mid-1900s they have become increasingly uncommon and are now regarded as insulting. Since the late 20th century, the terms handicapped and the handicapped, once thought to be acceptable alternatives, have also become somewhat offensive. ( Handicapped remains acceptable, however, in certain set phrases like handicapped parking. ) Attempts to replace crippled with the milder euphemistic term physically challenged were sidetracked by a virtual explosion of satirical imitations like economically challenged (poor), ethically challenged (immoral), and vertically challenged (short). The currently acceptable terms are disabled and, when referring to groups, the phrase people with disabilities, or somewhat less commonly, the disabled. These terms are not only less likely to offend, they are more useful. While cripple and crippled traditionally denoted permanent impairments of one or more limbs, disabled is a broader, more comprehensive word that can refer to many different kinds of physical or mental impairments, whether temporary or permanent.
cripple and crippled are not deemed offensive when referring to an inanimate object or an animal. And cripple can be used freely as a verb, especially metaphorically, as in Failing to upgrade the computer system will cripple our business. See also retarded. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for cripple

Contemporary Examples of cripple

Historical Examples of cripple

  • His intention was neither to kill nor to cripple his antagonist.

    The Leopard Woman

    Stewart Edward White

  • “The man is virtually a cripple,” he added with unmistakable feeling.

    The Secret Agent

    Joseph Conrad

  • Then the cripple said to him: “If you are afraid, then you cannot become an Immortal!”

  • He was evidently a cripple, propped up in a strange wheelchair.

    The Heads of Apex

    Francis Flagg

  • The first of these he might, perhaps, solve after a fashion, but the second—and he a cripple!

    Fair Harbor

    Joseph Crosby Lincoln

British Dictionary definitions for cripple



offensive a person who is lame
offensive a person who is or seems disabled or deficient in some waya mental cripple
US dialect a dense thicket, usually in marshy land


(tr) to make a cripple of; disable
Derived Formscrippler, noun

Word Origin for cripple

Old English crypel; related to crēopan to creep, Old Frisian kreppel a cripple, Middle Low German kröpel
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for cripple

Old English crypel, related to cryppan "to crook, bend," from Proto-Germanic *krupilaz (cf. Old Frisian kreppel, Middle Dutch cropel, German krüppel, Old Norse kryppill). Possibly also related to Old English creopan "to creep" (creopere, literally "creeper," was another Old English word for "crippled person").


mid-13c., "to move slowly," from cripple (n.). Meaning "make a cripple of, lame" is from early 14c. Related: Crippled; crippling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for cripple




One that is partially disabled or unable to use a limb or limbs.


To cause to lose the use of a limb or limbs.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.