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 conservative argument would say that the Constitution leaves Congress powerless to deal with such a case — or with any scenario in which a president commits grossly impeachable acts in his final days in office. Stephen I. Vladeck, Star Tribune, "Why Trump can be convicted even as an ex-president," 15 Jan. 2021 Our current economic system leaves the majority of people, including creative workers, vulnerable and powerless. Robin Kaiser-schatzlein, The New Republic, "The Artist Isn’t Dead," 4 Jan. 2021 Afghan officials seem powerless to stop the lucrative trade; many have grown wealthy through their complicity in facilitating the trafficking. New York Times, "In a Village of Widows, the Opium Trade Has Taken a Deadly Toll," 27 Dec. 2020 Republicans in the House and Senate were a powerless minority for all but four of her 33 years there. WSJ, "Margaret Chase Smith’s Legacy Is Contested," 18 Dec. 2020 Jeeves and Bertie Wooster are crossed by the order of things, the boss set to task and taste by his assistant, and the injustice is comic because both of them are powerless to correct this misarrangement. Nathan Heller, The New Yorker, "What if You Could Outsource Your To-Do List?," 30 Nov. 2020 These same witnesses feel police are powerless to protect them from retribution. Sidney Fussell, Wired, "As Cities Curb Surveillance, Baltimore Police Took to the Air," 27 Nov. 2020 But Democrats are powerless as long as Republicans have control. Edmund H. Mahony, courant.com, "Hope is fading for U.S. Senate vote on Connecticut judge’s nomination to the federal bench; Jongbloed has been waiting for more than a year," 18 Dec. 2020 Sue Mazzolini Before September, Sue Mazzolini felt powerless to do anything about the pandemic. Amanda Morris, The Arizona Republic, "'Somebody has to do it': Volunteers help push COVID-19 vaccines toward the finish line," 13 Dec. 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

23 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Powerless.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/powerless. Accessed 26 Jan. 2021.

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.

More from Merriam-Webster on powerless

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Slippery Words Quiz—Changing with the Times

  • ducreux self portrait yawning
  • What is an earlier meaning of nice?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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