1. Having become or having been rendered inoperative: a disabled vehicle.
2. Having a disability: a disabled veteran.
(used with a pl. verb) People with physical or mental impairments, considered as a group. rights of the disabled.
Usage Note: Disabled is the clear preference in contemporary American English for referring to people having either physical or mental impairments, with the impairments themselves preferably termed disabilities. Handicapped—a term derived from the world of sports gambling—is still in wide use but is often taken to be offensive, while more recent coinages such as differently abled or handicapable tend to be perceived as condescending euphemisms and have gained little currency. · The often-repeated recommendation to put the person before the disability would favor persons with disabilities over disabled persons and person with paraplegia over paraplegic. Such expressions are said to focus on the individual rather than on the particular functional limitation, and they are therefore considered by many to be more respectful. See Usage Note at handicapped.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.