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ˈhelp How to pronounce help (audio)
 Southern often  ˈhep,
 also  ˈheəp
helped; helping; helps

transitive verb

: to give assistance or support to (someone) : to provide (someone) with something that is useful or necessary in achieving an end
How can I help you?
He helps the children with their homework.
Can you help me get this jar open?
She helped him (walk) up/down the stairs.
: to make more pleasant or bearable : improve, relieve
bright curtains will help the room
took an aspirin to help her headache
archaic : rescue, save
Help us from famine / And plague and strife!Alfred Tennyson
: to be of use to : benefit
will do anything to help their cause
: to further the advancement of : promote
could help negotiations
: to change for the better
: to refrain from : avoid
we couldn't help laughing
: to keep from occurring : prevent
they couldn't help the accident
: to restrain (oneself) from doing something
knew they shouldn't go but couldn't help themselves
: to serve with food or drink especially at a meal
told the guests to help themselves
: to take something for (oneself) without permission
helped himself to the car keys

intransitive verb

: to give assistance or support
often used with out
helps out with the housework
: to be of use or benefit
every little bit helps

see also helping hand, helping verb


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plural helps
: the act or an instance of doing or supplying something to make it easier for another to complete a task, deal with a problem, etc. : aid, assistance
I could use some help with the dishes.
We heard cries for help coming from the house.
We couldn't have done this without your help.
I'm glad I could be of help. [=I'm glad I could help.]
see also self-help
: a source of aid
She is a help to our efforts.
You've been a great help to us.
The instructions were no help (at all).
He's been more of a hindrance than a help.
Turner … and Mackinley … are big helps with their younger siblings.Julia Lipscombe
see also help desk, help menu, help screen
: remedy, relief
The situation is beyond help.
(somewhat old-fashioned) There was no help for it. I was obliged to tell him the truth.Wilkie Collins
plural usually help
: employee
help wanted
usually used in plural but singular or plural in construction
Most of the restaurant's summer help is/are college students.
often offensive : a domestic worker
usually used in plural but singular or plural in construction
so help me
: upon my word : believe it or not
Choose the Right Synonym for help

improve, better, help, ameliorate mean to make more acceptable or to bring nearer a standard.

improve and better are general and interchangeable and apply to what can be made better whether it is good or bad.

measures to further improve the quality of medical care
immigrants hoping to better their lot

help implies a bettering that still leaves room for improvement.

a coat of paint would help that house

ameliorate implies making more tolerable or acceptable conditions that are hard to endure.

tried to ameliorate the lives of people in the tenements

Example Sentences

Verb Don't blame me: I was only trying to help! Help! Somebody call the police! She took an aspirin to help her headache. Humor often helps a tense situation. It's not much money, but every little bit helps. Noun He thanked us for our help. I could use some help with the dishes. We could hear shouts for help coming from the house. He's been more of a hindrance than a help. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
In a statement to Fox News Digital, SUNY Chancellor John B. King, Jr. said that the requirement will help prepare students to go into the workforce. Adam Sabes, Fox News, 1 Feb. 2023 A quarter of the sample will be analyzed for amino acids, which will help nail down the source of discrepancies between lab studies and meteorites. WIRED, 31 Jan. 2023 Satellites, which help connect emissions to a single source, aren't widely enough available. Cathy Bussewitz, ajc, 31 Jan. 2023 The Carlsons hope that their public outcry will help members of the legislature and the public understand the board’s policy on commutations and remind them of Carney’s crime. Taylor Hartz, Hartford Courant, 31 Jan. 2023 The two will also be joined by Inside the NBA analyst Charles Barkley, who'll help Walton call the matchup between the Raptors and Suns starting at 9 p.m. EST. Natasha Dye, Peoplemag, 30 Jan. 2023 The Kiehl's Magic Elixir contains castor, avocado, safflower, and rosemary leaf oil, which help moisturize kinky, curly, or coiled hair and aid in regrowth. Rebecca Deczynski, Health, 30 Jan. 2023 Carroll County residents are welcome to visit Exploration Commons in the Westminster public library branch Saturday to meet Pepper, a social humanoid robot who will help their coding dreams come to life. Thomas Goodwin Smith, Baltimore Sun, 27 Jan. 2023 The full financial costs of the labor settlements between UC and 48,000 academic workers who help power the system’s vaunted teaching and research engine are still being tallied. Teresa Watanabestaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 27 Jan. 2023
Belle makes the best of her imprisonment with the help of some magical friends who also live at the castle. Kori Williams, Seventeen, 20 Jan. 2023 Five have returned to Martha’s Vineyard with the help of residents. Joanna Slater, Washington Post, 20 Jan. 2023 Nicholas More, a photographer from the United Kingdom, found this seahorse with the help of a guide who directed him to the animals off the coast of Bali. Carlyn Kranking, Smithsonian Magazine, 20 Jan. 2023 In October, with the help of DNA genealogy, investigators were able to identify Lamar Vickerstaff as Baby Jane Doe’s father, police said. Jamiel Lynch, CNN, 20 Jan. 2023 Caraballo, who is also from Lawrenceville, was taken into custody with the help of Gwinnett County SWAT and the Gwinnett Sheriff’s Office fugitive unit. David Aaro, ajc, 20 Jan. 2023 Tammy and Jordan had prepared for the surrogacy process with the help of their family law attorney, Melissa Neckers, who explained how Michigan's 1988 Surrogate Parenting Act says any agreement between parties won't be recognized in court. Rachel Burchfield, Peoplemag, 20 Jan. 2023 This leave-in spray has a lightweight formula that all hair types can enjoy and softens and smooths hair with the help of bamboo and yeast extracts. Jennifer Hussein, Allure, 20 Jan. 2023 Even with the help of apps, deconstructing these foods to tally calories is often tedious and time-consuming. Time, 20 Jan. 2023 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'help.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Verb and Noun

Middle English, from Old English helpan; akin to Old High German helfan to help, and perhaps to Lithuanian šelpti

First Known Use


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of help was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near help

Cite this Entry

“Help.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 verb
: to provide with what is useful in achieving an end : aid, assist
helped me get a job
: remedy entry 2, relieve
rest helps a cold
: to keep from
couldn't help laughing
: prevent sense 1
it couldn't be helped
: to serve with food or drink
help yourself


2 of 2 noun
: an act or instance of helping : aid, assistance
give help
thanked us for our help
: the state of being helped : relief
a situation beyond help
: a person or a thing that helps
a help in time of trouble
: a hired helper or a body of hired helpers
hire new help

More from Merriam-Webster on help

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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