[ri-tahr-did]Usually Offensive.
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  1. characterized by a slowness or limitation in intellectual understanding and awareness, emotional development, academic progress, etc.
  2. Slang. stupid or foolish.
  1. (used with a plural verb) people who are slow or limited in mental development (usually preceded by the): new schools for the retarded.

Origin of retarded

First recorded in 1800–10; retard + -ed2
Related formsnon·re·tard·ed, adjectiveun·re·tard·ed, adjective

Synonyms for retarded

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Usage note

In reference to low intellectual ability, the terms retarded, retardation, and mental retardation are now usually perceived as insulting. There are several acceptable alternatives. In general, someone with a mental, physical, or emotional disability may be described as developmentally disabled, or as a person with a developmental disability. If it is specifically a mental disability, the person may be described as cognitively impaired or intellectually (or mentally) disabled. Such a person may be referred to as an individual with a cognitive impairment or a person with an intellectual (or mental) disability. The slang term retard is a term of abuse used especially by children, though much less commonly than in the past. In both of its meanings, retard is perceived as insulting to disabled people. See also cripple.


[ri-tahrd, for 1–3, 5; ree-tahrd for 4]
verb (used with object)
  1. to make slow; delay the development or progress of (an action, process, etc.); hinder or impede.
verb (used without object)
  1. to be delayed.
  1. a slowing down, diminution, or hindrance, as in a machine.
  2. Slang: Disparaging and Offensive.
    1. a contemptuous term used to refer to a person who is cognitively impaired.
    2. a person who is stupid, obtuse, or ineffective in some way: a hopeless social retard.
  3. Automotive, Machinery. an adjustment made in the setting of the distributor of an internal-combustion engine so that the spark for ignition in each cylinder is generated later in the cycle.
Compare advance.

Origin of retard

1480–90; < Latin retardāre to delay, protract, equivalent to re- re- + tardāre to loiter, be slow, derivative of tardus slow; see tardy
Related formsre·tard·ing·ly, adverb

Synonyms for retard

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Antonyms for retard

Usage note Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for retarded


  1. underdeveloped, esp mentally and esp having an IQ of 70 to 85See also ESN, mental handicap, subnormal (def. 2)


verb (rɪˈtɑːd)
  1. (tr) to delay or slow down (the progress, speed, or development) of (something)
noun (ˈriːtɑːd)
  1. US offensive a retarded person
  2. US offensive a foolish person

Word Origin for retard

C15: from Old French retarder, from Latin retardāre, from re- + tardāre to make slow, from tardus sluggish; see tardy
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 retarded

1810, "delayed," past participle adjective from retard (v.). In childhood development sense, "mentally slow," attested from 1895 (cf. Italian tardivi).



late 15c., "make slow or slower," from French retarder "restrain, hold (someone) back, keep (someone from doing something); come to a stop" (13c.) or directly from Latin retardare "make slow, delay, keep back, hinder" (see retardation). Related: Retarded; retarding.

The noun is recorded from 1788 in the sense "retardation, delay;" from 1970 in offensive meaning "retarded person," originally American English, with accent on first syllable. Other words used for "one who is mentally retarded" include retardate (1956), retardee (1971).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper