Just having problems isn't enough to classify someone as having a mental disorder. We all have problems. Instead, a person's functioning has to be clearly abnormal. Not that the person is abnormal, but that some aspect of mental or behavioral functioning is off base.

Does it mean "abnormal" again or more than that?

Do you use it in daily life?

  • 4
    "off base" is layman's language for "not as it should be".
    – TimR
    Apr 1, 2015 at 14:27
  • 1
    @TRomano: I'd say "off" is idiomatic "not as it should be". Usually, "off base" is "not in the right place". Personally I don't find OP's example very natural - if the writer wanted to use an informal term there, I suggest out of kilter might be more appropriate. Apr 1, 2015 at 16:35
  • "Off-base" is becoming something of a catch-all in American idiom, with meanings ranging from inaccuracy all the way to inappropriate behavior.
    – TimR
    Apr 1, 2015 at 22:16

2 Answers 2


In this context, I would say it most closely means "improper". For the most part, though, it could be substituted with "abnormal" but I feel it's a little stronger and less formal.

I believe it started as a baseball metaphor (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stolen_base), but it's now pretty common so I doubt people think of it that way most of the time.

I most frequently hear it in the specific phrase "You're way off base!" which is a quite rude way of telling someone that their assumptions are incorrect.


"Off base" is an idiomatic phrase in AE = off beam in BE. The phrase is usually used in informal English, meaning wrong or badly mistaken. The person who is suffering from mental disorder is not only abnormal (different from what's usual or expected) but also has some aspect of wrong/mistaken mental or behavioral function.

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