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List of disability-related terms with negative connotations

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Title: List of disability-related terms with negative connotations  
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Subject: Disability, James Charlton (activist), Handicapism, List of ethnic slurs, Disability lists
Collection: Disability, Disability Lists, Pejorative Terms for People
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List of disability-related terms with negative connotations

The following is a list of terms used to describe disabilities or people with disabilities that may be considered negative and/or offensive by people with or without disabilities.

There is a great deal of disagreement as to what should be considered offensive. Views vary with geography and culture, over time, and among individuals. Many terms that some people view as offensive are not viewed as offensive by others, and even where some people are offended by certain terms, others may be offended by the replacement of such terms with what they consider to be euphemisms (e.g., "differently abled" or "special needs"). Some people believe that terms should be avoided if they might offend people; others hold the listener responsible for misinterpreting terms used with non-offensive intent.

For some terms, the grammar structure of their use determine if they are offensive. The people first stance advocates for saying "people with disabilities" instead of "the disabled" or "a person who is deaf" instead of "a deaf person".[1][2][3] However, some advocate against this, saying it reflects a medical model of disability whereas "disabled person" is more appropriate and reflects the social model of disability.[4]


  • A 1
  • B 2
  • C 3
  • D 4
  • E 5
  • F 6
  • G 7
  • H 8
  • I 9
  • L 10
  • M 11
  • N 12
  • P 13
  • R 14
  • S 15
  • T 16
  • V 17
  • W 18
  • Y 19
  • Z 20
  • References 21
  • External links 22


  • Autism or autistic, when used as an insult.[5]
  • Aspy, one that has Asperger's.


  • Blind, especially when used metaphorically (e.g., "blind to criticism") or preceded by "the".[2][6][7]


  • Crank[8]
  • Crazy, especially when used to describe something incredible or ridiculous.[2][6][9][10]
  • Cretin[11]
  • Cripple used to mean "a person with a physical or mobility impairment." Its shortened form, "crip" is reclaimed by some people with disabilities as a positive identity.[2][3][7][12]



  • Epileptic, especially when referring to an individual[6]



  • Gimp or gimpy to describe a limp.[9][10]



  • Imbecile was the formal term used for persons with an IQ of 25–50. It has since been phased out of formal use.[2]
  • Incapacitated[2]
  • Idiot was the formal term for persons with an IQ of 0–30.[15][16] It is also no longer used formally.
  • Invalid[2][6]


  • Lame. A reference to difficulty walking or moving. The term has since been adopted into urban slang to generally refer to something or someone as "meaningless" or "without worth."[2][9][10]
  • Lunatic or looney[2]



  • Nuts[11]




  • Schizo, schizoid, or schizophrenic, especially as an adjective, meaning "erratic" or "unpredictable" or, for the former two, to refer to an individual.[17][18][19][20]
  • Simpleton[11]
  • Slow[6]
  • Spastic or spaz[2][7][10]
    • See the article on the word for the dramatically different connotations of the term in Commonwealth and North American English. The term is extremely offensive in Commonwealth English, especially in the UK, but far less so in North America.
  • Special[2][10]
  • Stupid[11]
  • Sperg to refer to someone with Asperger Syndrome.
  • Sufferer or suffering a given disability.[2][3][6]


  • Tard, short for "retarded"; see retarded above.[21]


  • Victim of an ailment.[2][3][6][10]


  • Whacko[11]
  • Wheelchair bound[2][3][6][7][10]


  • "Yuppie flu" used as a pejorative term for chronic fatigue syndrome. This originated from the media stereotype of people with CFS as ambitious, young, and affluent, and having an illness indistinguishable from influenza, neither of which is an accurate portrayal.[22]


  • "Zip", a microcephalic,[23] perhaps by derivation from the stage name of sideshow performer William Henry Johnson (ca. 1842–1926), "Zip the Pinhead".


  1. ^ Vaughan, C. Edwin (March 2009). "People-First Language: An Unholy Crusade". Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z "Resource on Person-First Language - The Language Used to Describe Individuals With Disabilities".  
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Disability etiquette - Tips On Interacting With People With Disabilities" (PDF).  
  4. ^ Egan, Lisa (9 November 2012). "I'm Not A "Person With a Disability": I'm a Disabled Person".  
  5. ^ Kent, Tamsyn (6 November 2009). "Has ‘autism’ become a term of abuse?".  
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "ENC1101 First-year Composition - Guidelines for Avoiding Ableist Language". Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h "Advice for Staff - Disability Etiquette - Appropriate Language and Behaviour". Student Support and Accommodation. Heriot-Watt University. Archived from the original on 2 February 2014. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  8. ^ Crank at Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
  9. ^ a b c d "The Transcontinental Disability Choir: What is Ableist Language and Why Should You Care?". 11 November 2009. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Disability Access Services Blog - Ableism and Language". 31 January 2012. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h Brown, Lydia (16 June 2013). "Ableist Language". Retrieved 28 September 2013. 
  12. ^ Clare, Eli. "Thinking about the word crip". Retrieved 18 January 2014. 
  13. ^ Quackenbush, Nicole (2008). Bodies in Culture, Culture in Bodies: Disability Narratives and a Rhetoric of Resistance. Ann Arbor, MI: ProQuest LLC. pp. 118–127. 
  14. ^ Cowley, Gina. "Female Hysteria". BellaOnline. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  15. ^ Rapley, Mark (2004), The Social Construction of Intellectual Disability, Cambridge University Press, p. 32,  .
  16. ^ Cruz, Isagani A.; Quaison, Camilo D., Correct Choice of Words' : English Grammar Series for Filipino Lawyers (2003 Edition ed.), Rex Bookstore, Inc., pp. 444–445,   .
  17. ^ Penn, David L.; Nowlin-Drummond, Amy (2001). "Politically Correct Labels and Schizophrenia: A Rose by Any Other Name?" (PDF). Schizophrenia Bulletin 27 (2): 197–203.  
  18. ^ Kelly, Jon; Winterman, Denise (10 October 2011). "OCD, bipolar, schizophrenic and the misuse of mental health terms".  
  19. ^ " - Schizoid". Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  20. ^ "The Free Dictionary - Schizo". Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  21. ^ " - Tard". Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  22. ^ Frumkin, Howard; Packard, Randall M.; Brown, Peter G.; Ruth L. Berkelman (2004). Emerging illnesses and society: negotiating the public health agenda. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.  
  23. ^ Will Cuppy, The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody, (New York: Henry Holt, 1950), p. 30, fn. 2: "We have cone-headed people today, but we do not call them Squill Heads. We call them Zips."

External links

  • Disability etiquette: appropriate language and behavior
  • Terminology tips
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