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

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 Speaking publicly for the first time, Constand takes the witness stand and describes the alleged 2004 assault, saying the three blue pills Cosby gave her left her woozy and powerless to react. Laura Mccrystal, Philly.com, "Bill Cosby sexual assault case: Timeline of key events," 30 Mar. 2018 Those decisions were seismic cultural shifts, and conservatives were tired of feeling powerless to stop, slow, or reverse these changes. Kay Steiger, Vox, "8 takeaways from the knock-down, drag-out fight over Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation," 6 Oct. 2018 Today, Republicans are creating ever-more-restrictive work requirements for food stamps and Medicaid, and Democrats look powerless to stop them. Livia Gershon, Longreads, "The Prosperity Plea," 30 May 2018 For her part, Warren is virtually powerless to stop Mulvaney’s revamping of the agency that is her brainchild. Liz Goodwin, BostonGlobe.com, "Warren’s consumer dream dismantled," 3 Mar. 2018 But coaches are mostly powerless to combat the trend, since publicly criticizing such players could hurt future recruiting efforts. Brian Costa, WSJ, "Now Missing From Bowl Games: Top College Football Players," 11 Dec. 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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Last Updated

10 Mar 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

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


to corrupt or become corrupted

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