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

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web But the stories of princesses being helpless never felt true to me. Nora Krug, Washington Post, "How Shannon Hale draws strength from Wonder Woman, the star of her new book, even amid boos," 26 Jan. 2020 Her mother, Jenni Woodruff of Alexandria, was helpless to protect her. Terry Demio, USA TODAY, "Covering the opioid epidemic: Despair, bravery, helplessness, iron will and too much death," 15 Dec. 2019 Michigan didn’t surrender 62 points like last season, but the Wolverines defense was helpless again in the Buckeyes’ 56-27 romp. Teddy Greenstein,, "‘I think it means more at Ohio State’: No. 1 Buckeyes shred Michigan 56-27 for their 8th straight win in the series as Jim Harbaugh flops again," 30 Nov. 2019 That was until Dejan Lovren leapt above Dortmund's Adrián Ramos, who'd set himself to clear the ball, and squeezed the ball into the only area that Weidenfeller was helpless to stop the header., "Liverpool 4-3 Borussia Dortmund: European Nights at Anfield Don't Get Much Better Than This," 5 Nov. 2019 The scars from a pair of defeats — at Oregon and Wazzu, by a combined margin of 86-13 — in which Montez was helpless to stop the bleeding. Sean Keeler, The Denver Post, "Analysis: CU Buffs QB Steven Montez finds legacy — and CU’s season — at stake vs. USC Trojans," 25 Oct. 2019 Some of the worst damage was concentrated in the Mount Washington shopping village, where store owners were helpless as their retail inventories were destroyed by water and mud. Baltimore Sun Staff,, "When Tropical Storm David flooded Mount Washington 40 years ago," 6 Sep. 2019 Johnny and his motorcycle gang take over Wrightsville, and the local sheriff is helpless to stop them. Los Angeles Times, "Movies on TV this week Sept. 1 - 7, 2019: John Wayne in ‘The Searchers’ and more," 30 Aug. 2019 But the book also conveys a compassionate and reflective view of the child, even the grown child, who is helpless in the face of parental fadeout. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, "Scenes from the Life of Roz Chast," 23 Dec. 2019

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.

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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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Statistics for helpless

Last Updated

13 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Helpless.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for helpless


How to pronounce helpless (audio)

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 How to pronounce helpless (audio) \

Kids Definition of helpless

: without help or defense a helpless infant

Other Words from helpless

helplessly adverb
helplessness noun

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Comments on helpless

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