help·less | \ ˈhel-pləs ; Southern often ˈhep-ləs also ˈheəp- \

Definition of helpless 

1 : lacking protection or support : defenseless as helpless as a flock of shepherdless sheep —W. H. Mallock

2a : marked by an inability to act or react the crowd looked on in helpless horrorCurrent Biography

b : not able to be controlled or restrained helpless laughter

Keep scrolling for more

Other words from helpless

helplessly adverb
helplessness noun

Examples of helpless in a Sentence

The civilians were helpless against their attackers. Firefighters were helpless against the blaze. I feel helpless. Isn't there anything I can do? The crowd was helpless with laughter. He was helpless with rage.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

As a familiar cycle of thoughts and prayers set in, Ullman felt helpless and angry. Bridget Read, Vogue, "Meet the Young Female Filmmaker With a Gun-Reform Super PAC," 2 June 2018 Simultaneously, the ordeal ruptures their inner sense of identity and self-reliance, making them, finally, totally emotionally helpless and dependent on the group’s particular charismatic Big Brother. Win Mccormack, The New Republic, "A Mind’s Eye View of 1984," 12 Apr. 2018 Many drivers were left to feel helpless by the end of this wreck-filled night. Edgar Thompson,, "Emotion-filled 22-year-old Erik Jones captures chaotic Coke Zero Sugar 400," 9 July 2018 Cubs hitters were mainly helpless against Pirates pitching on a foggy day at Wrigley Field. Teddy Greenstein,, "Cubs fall apart in 7-1 loss after Joe Maddon decides to pull Kyle Hendricks," 10 June 2018 As with so many other issues these days, the truth is helpless against it. Drew Magary, GQ, "Why the Anthem Works For Trump," 6 June 2018 The Rockets seemed entirely helpless against the Warriors' suffocating, swarming defense to start the game, not only missing their first eight shots, but rarely getting any with much of a chance to fall. Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle, "Rockets rally in thrilling fourth quarter, hold off Warriors to even series," 22 May 2018 Each rape is a work of performance art, with costumes and props (including, in one unforgettable case, a dead cat) leaving the victims forever reliving the horrors inflicted on them and helpless to understand. Lisa Miller, The Cut, "The Weaponized Amber Tamblyn," 8 July 2018 Balancing the neediness of her helpless husband with the constant grousing of her boss at a canning factory, Ramona persists, but is hardly rewarded for it. John Defore, The Hollywood Reporter, "'2018 Sundance Film Festival Short Film Tour': Film Review," 4 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'helpless.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of helpless

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

History and Etymology for helpless

see help entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about helpless

Statistics for helpless

Last Updated

14 Aug 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for helpless

The first known use of helpless was before the 12th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for helpless



English Language Learners Definition of helpless

: not protected : not able to defend yourself

: unable to do something to make a situation, task, etc., better or easier

: not able to be controlled


help·less | \ ˈhelp-ləs \

Kids Definition of helpless

: without help or defense a helpless infant

Other words from helpless

helplessly adverb
helplessness noun

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on helpless

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for helpless

Spanish Central: Translation of helpless

Nglish: Translation of helpless for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of helpless for Arabic Speakers

Comments on helpless

What made you want to look up helpless? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


an open space surrounded by woods

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Food Quiz

Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!