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

Keep scrolling for more

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 The current president of the United States will not aid you, or anyone else, in your efforts, but that doesn’t mean you’re powerless to help Puerto Ricans still dealing with Maria’s aftermath. Danielle Campoamor, Teen Vogue, "Here’s How You Can Still Help Puerto Rico If You’re Not a Sitting U.S. President," 17 Sep. 2018 Last week, Jay Clayton, the chairman of the S.E.C., said his agency was effectively powerless to investigate corporate skulduggery because of China’s lack of assistance. New York Times, "Chinese Coffee Chain’s Scandal Renews U.S. Calls for Oversight," 30 Apr. 2020 Pragli executives argue that emails and Slack messages, the traditional lifeblood of office communication, are socially unfulfilling: efficient but soulless, and powerless to combat the distractions and loneliness of working from home. Washington Post, "Managers turn to surveillance software, always-on webcams to ensure employees are (really) working from home," 30 Apr. 2020 Without a vaccine or treatments, the people living there will be almost as powerless before the disease as humanity once was against smallpox. Walter Russell Mead, WSJ, "The Coronavirus Hits the Global South," 20 Apr. 2020 Live, the visual spectacle of human effort rendered powerless by overwhelming force speaks volumes. New York Times, "Loud, Louder, Loudest: How Classical Music Started to Roar," 17 Apr. 2020 Our unique federal system does not mean that Trump remains utterly powerless to bring the nation out of this unprecedented economic contraction. John Yoo, National Review, "No, Trump Can’t Force States to Reopen," 13 Apr. 2020 Under the court’s precedents, Kagan wrote, Congress was powerless to enact the law, dooming Allen’s case, Allen v. Cooper, No. Adam Liptak, BostonGlobe.com, "Supreme Court issues 3 major opinions — but not from the bench," 23 Mar. 2020 The Covid-19 crisis has driven Western nations to embrace government spending after a decade in which monetary policy has proven powerless to boost economic growth. Jon Sindreu, WSJ, "What the Fed Learned from Lehman, the Treasury Must Learn from Covid-19," 23 Mar. 2020

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.

See More

First Known Use of powerless

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about powerless

Time Traveler for powerless

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for powerless

Last Updated

1 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Powerless.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/powerless. Accessed 4 Jun. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for powerless


How to pronounce powerless (audio)

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.

Keep scrolling for more

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

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


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

May 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a blooming wisteria tree
  • Which is a synonym of exiguous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

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!