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"Teams were lopsided so the teacher shuffled kids around"

Definition of lopsided (Merriam Webster):

: lacking in balance, symmetry, or proportion : disproportionately heavy on one side
[...]
a lopsided vote of 99–1
[...]
They won the game by a lopsided score of 25–3.

I know that a lopsided game is a game that you win or lose by a huge margin but what is a lopsided team? Is it when most of the strong players are on one team and most of the weak ones on the other? I know that one of the synonyms for lopsided is unbalanced so that would fit nicely.

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  • 2
    It could also just refer to total numbers. Maybe the teams were arranged in advance, but a number of kids are absent on that day, leaving one team with more members than the other. Dec 7 '21 at 13:49
  • Another possibility: each team is strong in one respect and weak in another. Dec 8 '21 at 3:49
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Yes, you're correct.

From Cambridge:

[something] with one side bigger, higher, etc. than the other; not equally balanced.

Looking at the last definition, it can be seen that the sentence means that the teams are not equally balanced. There are many strong players on one team and few on the other, for example.

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The idiomatic standard for the cited context is...

the teams were [not] evenly matched

That's a link to dozens if not hundreds of written instances of the usage with teams. The meaning is simply that the two teams have wildly different skill levels, making the outcome of any match entirely predictable - there's no real "game".

OP's cited use of "lopsided" would be comprehensible to native speakers in context, but it has no real currency with this particular figurative sense.

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  • I'd actually consider lopsided teams as still being still within an acceptable boundary without some other modifier, leading to a potentially better game than a balanced one rather than no game!
    – ti7
    Dec 7 '21 at 21:13
  • Well, Google Books has just 4 written instances of "teams were lopsided", compared to thousands of instances of "teams were evenly matched". To my mind, that means the "lopsided" version doesn't really have any currency, so it can carry whatever nuance you like. That's if we assume that anyone who does use "lopsided" here is aware of the "idiomatic standard", and chooses to use something different specifically in order to shift the meaning. If they don't even know they're doing that, I'd say their "non-standard" choice has no significance anyway. Dec 8 '21 at 11:49

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