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Advantage vs Handicap vs Allowance vs Odds vs Edge

Advantage, Handicap, Allowance, Odds and Edge denote a factor or set of factors in a competition or rivalry giving one person or side a position of superiority over the other.

Advantage is the general term, and implies superiority of any kind.

the adult, with trained powers, has an immense advantage over the child in the acquisition of information

A handicap is something, typically an artificial advantage, designed to equalize competition; thus, in golf, the handicap assigned a player is the difference between the average of a certain number of his best scores and par for the course; for instance, if the player’s best-score average is 75 and par is 72, his handicap is 3, and when he plays in a handicap match the player is allowed to deduct three strokes from his total score.

An allowance is an advantageous handicap stated as a deduction of some sort. In horse racing an allowance is a deduction from the weight that the rules require a horse to carry, granted to a horse considered to be at a disadvantage.

Odds usually implies a material advantage as in strength, numbers, or resources. It is often used of such an advantage possessed by the opposite side.

  • managed to beat the odds against him
  • the peculiarly British quality . . . of sticking out against odds
    Contemporary Review

Advantage is often stated as a difference, odds as a ratio.

  • one boxer has an advantage of ten pounds in weight
  • one army has odds of two to one over the other

Odds may also denote an equalizing concession made to an inferior competitor; it then differs from handicap and allowance in that the concession is made by the superior competitor and not assigned by a third party.

  • each side feels that it cannot allow any odds to the other

Edge may be an equivalent of advantage or odds but usually implies a slight but decisive superiority.

  • here we have the edge on our rivals, not only because of our superior location, but also because we are reputedly reckless about reducing prices
    -Publishers’ Weekly