pow·​er·​less | \ ˈpau̇(-ə)r-ləs How to pronounce powerless (audio) \

Definition of powerless

1 : devoid of strength or resources powerless victims
2 : lacking the authority or capacity to act was powerless to help

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Other Words from powerless

powerlessly adverb
powerlessness noun

Examples of powerless in a Sentence

I wish I could help you, but I am powerless in this situation.

Recent Examples on the Web

People feel powerless with respect to important things, and that leaves them open to be manipulated politically. Christopher Borrelli, chicagotribune.com, "Our summer of fear: A conversation with Chicago philosopher Martha Nussbaum," 9 July 2018 Californians were powerless, without air-conditioning, in the hottest weather many had ever experienced. Jason Samenow, Washington Post, "Record heat put thousands of Californians in the dark Friday. Scientists predicted this from climate change.," 9 July 2018 These are tools of the relatively weak and powerless, and highlighting them as the only means through which the exercise of free discourse can be constrained is missing the bulk of the story. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "NFL owners are stifling speech, but it’s not called “no-platforming” when you’re rich and own the platform," 25 May 2018 By definition, cultural appropriation hurts the powerless, and the Catholic church is one of the most powerful institutions in the world. Jessica Andrews, Teen Vogue, "The Met Gala 2018 Theme Isn't Cultural Appropriation," 9 May 2018 The prospect of losing your friendship (or other consequences) may only make your friend feel more isolated, trapped, misunderstood, and powerless. Carolyn L. Todd, SELF, "5 Helpful Things to Say to a Friend Who Self-Harms (and 3 to Avoid)," 1 Mar. 2019 Their poor parents are powerless to stop the crying, yelling and screaming. Amanda Garrity, Good Housekeeping, "Colin Hanks Shares a Heartfelt Story About Luke Perry Following the Actor's Tragic Death," 5 Mar. 2019 Historically, America has viewed victims as powerless and two-dimensional. Lara Backmender, Glamour, "The March for Our Lives Activists Who Said Never Again," 1 Nov. 2018 That movie was very much about the issues that women face and about the feeling of being powerless and about the feeling of wanting to turn the tables. Todd Vanderwerff, Vox, "The life, death, and rebirth of Jennifer’s Body, according to screenwriter Diablo Cody," 10 Nov. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'powerless.' 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 powerless

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for powerless

Last Updated

7 Apr 2019

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Time Traveler for powerless

The first known use of powerless was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for powerless



English Language Learners Definition of powerless

: having no power : unable to do something or to stop something


pow·​er·​less | \ ˈpau̇-ər-ləs How to pronounce powerless (audio) \

Kids Definition of powerless

: without power, strength, authority, or influence He was powerless to stop them.

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More from Merriam-Webster on powerless

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for powerless

Spanish Central: Translation of powerless

Nglish: Translation of powerless for Spanish Speakers

Comments on powerless

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to move or proceed with twists and turns

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