Words that hurt: “Lame”

blocks spell the words "Words have power"

According to Merriam-Webster, “lame” is an adjective that means “having an injured leg or foot that makes walking difficult or painful; not strong, good, or effective; not smart or impressive.” Originally the word lame was used to describe people with physical disabilities, but it has now transitioned to describe any negative or imperfect thing or situation. 

“That’s so lame!” is a phrase used very commonly in American youth culture. As with other words that have moved into regular slang use, such as “crazy”, people using the term “lame” usually do not associate it with its original meaning. Though not usually directed at people with disabilities, let’s remember that the use of this word originates from the disability community, and its continued use further suggests that to have a disability is a bad thing.

Historically a term used to describe a disability, a well-known use of the term appears in the Bible. One of the first miracles that Jesus Christ performed was to “heal the lame.” 

Although it originated as a way to describe a particular disability, “lame” became a slang term to describe anyone who had difficulty walking or people with visible disabilities in general.  “Lame” has continued to be associated with people who need help or are otherwise unable to participate in certain life activities, such as walking.  

“Lame” is a hurtful term because it is directly tied to those with physical, visible disabilities and continues to marginalize them. Though “lame” is rarely used today to describe people with disabilities, it is used to describe things or situations in a negative light.  

By using “lame” as a negative descriptor, we perpetuate the stereotypes that people with visible, physical disabilities are not capable, effective or worthy individuals. By stopping the use of “lame” in daily speech, we can stop describing people with disabilities as incapable or somehow undesirable.  


Blank, Wayne. “Healing the Lame.” Daily Bible Study. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Aug. 2014.

One response to “Words that hurt: “Lame”

  1. this is the big problem with political correction it focus to much on the word and not on the aptitude behind it. if we want to make a positive change on people perspective on disability we need to talk and focus on the negative attitudes about disabilities. policing people on their language is not going to solve the problem. and it just going to turn people way. I rather teach people that being disabled can be a positive experience then just saying stop using that word. many people have turn away from social justice because they tired of people telling them what they can say and not say…it a waste of time. lets focus on the attitude not the words. they change anyway and then have to be changed again and again because they become offensive. it no use it in changing it if it become offensive again. instead use teach a positive perspective about disability.

Comments are closed.