When speaking about bones and body parts what is the difference between a crippled body part/bone and a broken body part/bone?

  • A crippled leg
  • A broken arm

A crippled limb means the person is not able to fully use the limb for some reason (perhaps due to an injury, illness, or birth defect). Words are flexible so this may not always hold true, but, generally speaking, injured may imply a full recovery is expected, while crippled may imply a more permanent disability.

A broken limb simply means the bone has been fractured (either a crack or a full break):

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Crippling implies permanent disability, and is not related to a specific type of injury. For example you can have crippling nerve damage, or crippling joint pain, or even crippling headaches (if they occur so often that you can't function normally).

So "a crippled leg" is one that is permanently injured, or at least one that's not likely to heal. A "broken arm" means the bone has been fractured, but is expected to heal.

  • So cripple doesn't necessarily imply physical damage? – SovereignSun Sep 25 '17 at 17:34
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    Well, all damage is physical in some way, but I get what you are asking. It depends on the context. A "crippled leg" is assumed to be due to injury, so if it isn't (and the information is important) you should explain how it got that way. – Andrew Sep 25 '17 at 17:36
  • @Andrew - Diseases such as smallpox can cripple a leg. – J.R. Sep 25 '17 at 17:44
  • @J.R. I think you mean polio not smallpox but, yes I agree you can be crippled by disease, and also congenital deformity, age-related deterioration, psychological trauma, and other factors. – Andrew Sep 25 '17 at 17:49
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    @SovereignSun "Crippling" can be applied to anything which normally does something but cannot for some reason (such as being damaged). One can "cripple" a contract by writing the wording in a way that cannot be enforced. – Cort Ammon - Reinstate Monica Sep 25 '17 at 18:49

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