List of disability-related terms with negative connotations

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The following is a list of terms, used to describe disabilities or people with disabilities, which may carry negative connotations or be offensive to people with or without disabilities.

Some people consider it best to use person-first language, for example "a person with a disability" rather than "a disabled person."[1] However identity-first language, as in "autistic person" or "deaf person", is preferred by many people and organizations.[2]

Language can influence individuals' perception of disabled people and disability.[3] Views vary with geography and culture, over time, and among individuals. Many terms that some people view as harmful are not viewed as hurtful by others, and even where some people are hurt by certain terms, others may be hurt 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 hurt people; others hold the listener responsible for misinterpreting terms used without harmful intent.[citation needed] For example, crazy should be avoided in describing persons or their behaviors, but is less likely to cause offense if used as an intensifier as in "crazy speed".[4]

For some terms, the grammar structure of their use determine if they are harmful. The person-first stance advocates for saying "people with disabilities" instead of "the disabled" or "a person who is deaf" instead of "a deaf person".[5][6][7] 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.[8] On the other hand, there is also a grammar structure called identity-first language that construes disability as a function of social and political experiences occurring within a world designed largely for nondisabled people.[9]


  • A few sandwiches short of a picnic (which has numerous derivatives with no known original, e.g. "a few books short of a library"), a term meant to imply that a person has reduced or limited mental faculties[citation needed]
  • Able-bodied, there is an implied value judgement comparing a person with a disability versus one without[10]
  • Abnormal[11]
  • Addict[12]
  • Afflicted[10]
  • Attention-seeking, commonly used to label someone who is suffering emotionally[13]
  • Autism or autistic, when used as an insult[14]






  • Fucktard, portmanteau of 'fuck' and 'retard'.[39][40]




  • Imbecile was the diagnostic term, used in the early 1900s, for people with IQ scores between 30 and 50.[49] It is no longer used professionally.[6] Before the IQ test was developed in 1905, "imbecile" was also commonly used as a casual insult towards anyone perceived as incompetent at doing something.[49]
  • Incapacitated[6]
  • Idiot was the diagnostic term used for people with IQ scores under 30 when the IQ test was first developed in the early 1900s.[49][50] It is also no longer used professionally. Before the IQ test was developed in 1905, "idiot" was also commonly used as a casual insult towards anyone perceived as incompetent at doing something.[49]
  • Inmate, when referring to a psychiatric admission[12]
  • Insane[25]
  • Inspirational[51] or inspiring, when used about somebody doing a very ordinary activity, a phenomenon of spectacle known as "inspiration porn" that is based on pity; not to be confused with legitimate public activities of mass spectacle such as Special Olympics or Paralympics, which celebrate talent without pity or mockery.
  • Invalid[6][16]



  • Lame, in 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", e.g. "He told us a lame excuse for why he had not done the work."[6][21][22]
  • Losing one's mind[25]
  • Losing / Lost one's marbles
  • LPC – Likely to become a public charge[52]
  • Lunatic or looney[6]



  • Narc, narcissist[13] this does not mean the same as abuser[58]
  • Not the brightest bulb / Not the sharpest tool in the shed (mentally disabled derogatory term)
  • Nut, nuts, or nutter, nuthouse, etc.[23][25]


  • Out to lunch (slang term for "crazy" or mentally ill)[59][60]



  • Quasimodo, which translates to "half-formed" or more commonly "deformed", and made infamous by the fictional character Quasimodo, a deformed man with kyphosis who later appeared in a popular Disney film in the 1990s (see Hunchback above)[45]








See also


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