help·​less | \ ˈhel-pləs How to pronounce helpless (audio) ; 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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web There are so many things that are out of your control, which leads you to feel helpless and lost. Jack Kelly, Forbes, 13 May 2022 Still, being unable to share what's going on with friends and family has made Shanghai residents like Zhang still feel helpless. Grady Mcgregor, Fortune, 26 Apr. 2022 Someone has fallen and is lying, helpless, unable to speak. Meghan O'gieblyn, Wired, 24 Jan. 2022 But new research published on Monday in Current Biology shows that a number of seemingly overmatched males are not completely helpless. Jack Tamisiea, Scientific American, 25 Apr. 2022 The central bank, in other words, is helpless in this regard as hiking its 17% benchmark rate would not resolve the coming supply-side restrictions. Christiaan Hetzner, Fortune, 22 Apr. 2022 To me, Washington seemed like one of the states with the worst cell reception; when my partner would ride his bike under a thick canopy of ancient trees, I’d be left with my phone in hand, helpless and unable to pinpoint his exact location. Hannah Singleton, Outside Online, 31 Mar. 2022 Days passed and O'Brien was overwhelmed with thoughts of Freddie, so small and helpless. Kate Collins, USA TODAY, 6 Apr. 2022 As Aslanova and Alexander scrambled from basement to basement as bombs pummeled Mariupol, Quintana was back in Southern California, largely helpless, glued to the news. Washington Post, 1 Apr. 2022 See More

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.

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

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Time Traveler for helpless

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near helpless

helping verb



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Last Updated

16 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Helpless.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for helpless


help·​less | \ ˈhelp-ləs How to pronounce helpless (audio) \

Kids Definition of helpless

: without help or defense a helpless infant

Other Words from helpless

helplessly adverb
helplessness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on helpless

Nglish: Translation of helpless for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of helpless for Arabic Speakers


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