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ˈhelp How to pronounce help (audio)
 Southern often  ˈhep,
 also  ˈheəp
helped; helping; helps

transitive verb

: to give assistance or support to (someone) : to provide (someone) with something that is useful or necessary in achieving an end
How can I help you?
He helps the children with their homework.
Can you help me get this jar open?
She helped him (walk) up/down the stairs.
: to make more pleasant or bearable : improve, relieve
bright curtains will help the room
took an aspirin to help her headache
archaic : rescue, save
Help us from famine / And plague and strife!Alfred Tennyson
: to be of use to : benefit
will do anything to help their cause
: to further the advancement of : promote
could help negotiations
: to change for the better
: to refrain from : avoid
we couldn't help laughing
: to keep from occurring : prevent
they couldn't help the accident
: to restrain (oneself) from doing something
knew they shouldn't go but couldn't help themselves
: to serve with food or drink especially at a meal
told the guests to help themselves
: to take something for (oneself) without permission
helped himself to the car keys

intransitive verb

: to give assistance or support
often used with out
helps out with the housework
: to be of use or benefit
every little bit helps

see also helping hand, helping verb


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plural helps
: the act or an instance of doing or supplying something to make it easier for another to complete a task, deal with a problem, etc. : aid, assistance
I could use some help with the dishes.
We heard cries for help coming from the house.
We couldn't have done this without your help.
I'm glad I could be of help. [=I'm glad I could help.]
see also self-help
: a source of aid
She is a help to our efforts.
You've been a great help to us.
The instructions were no help (at all).
He's been more of a hindrance than a help.
Turner … and Mackinley … are big helps with their younger siblings.Julia Lipscombe
see also help desk, help menu, help screen
: remedy, relief
The situation is beyond help.
(somewhat old-fashioned) There was no help for it. I was obliged to tell him the truth.Wilkie Collins
plural usually help
: employee
help wanted
usually used in plural but singular or plural in construction
Most of the restaurant's summer help is/are college students.
often offensive : a domestic worker
usually used in plural but singular or plural in construction
so help me
: upon my word : believe it or not
Choose the Right Synonym for help

improve, better, help, ameliorate mean to make more acceptable or to bring nearer a standard.

improve and better are general and interchangeable and apply to what can be made better whether it is good or bad.

measures to further improve the quality of medical care
immigrants hoping to better their lot

help implies a bettering that still leaves room for improvement.

a coat of paint would help that house

ameliorate implies making more tolerable or acceptable conditions that are hard to endure.

tried to ameliorate the lives of people in the tenements

Examples of help in a Sentence

Verb Don't blame me: I was only trying to help! Help! Somebody call the police! She took an aspirin to help her headache. Humor often helps a tense situation. It's not much money, but every little bit helps. Noun He thanked us for our help. I could use some help with the dishes. We could hear shouts for help coming from the house. He's been more of a hindrance than a help.
Recent Examples on the Web
Both the Gap collaboration and new retail stores have helped with customer acquisition and brand awareness, as has investing more in digital advertising. Booth Moore, WWD, 9 July 2024 Hurricane Beryl may have helped cool this off a tad, and a massive plume of Saharan dust that is currently over the Atlantic can also cool oceans to some extent, according to McNoldy. Bill Kearney, Sun Sentinel, 9 July 2024
But in the meantime, those who know her are left to ponder an illness that appears to have consumed the caring mother, in spite of her efforts to get help. Laura Crimaldi,, 13 Feb. 2023 Police departments in Carroll County could get help from the state with funding the high cost of outfitting officers with body cameras, if a bill introduced in the Maryland General Assembly is passed. Sherry Greenfield, Baltimore Sun, 12 Feb. 2023 See all Example Sentences for help 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'help.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Verb and Noun

Middle English, from Old English helpan; akin to Old High German helfan to help, and perhaps to Lithuanian šelpti

First Known Use


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of help was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near help

Cite this Entry

“Help.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 verb
: to provide with what is useful in achieving an end : aid, assist
helped me get a job
: remedy entry 2, relieve
rest helps a cold
: to keep from
couldn't help laughing
: prevent sense 1
it couldn't be helped
: to serve with food or drink
help yourself


2 of 2 noun
: an act or instance of helping : aid, assistance
give help
thanked us for our help
: the state of being helped : relief
a situation beyond help
: a person or a thing that helps
a help in time of trouble
: a hired helper or a body of hired helpers
hire new help

More from Merriam-Webster on help

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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