help·​less | \ ˈhel-pləs How to pronounce helpless (audio) ; Southern often ˈhep-ləs also ˈheəp- \

Definition of helpless

1 : lacking protection or support : defenseless as helpless as a flock of shepherdless sheep— W. H. Mallock
2a : marked by an inability to act or react the crowd looked on in helpless horrorCurrent Biography
b : not able to be controlled or restrained helpless laughter

Other Words from helpless

helplessly adverb
helplessness noun

Examples of helpless in a Sentence

The civilians were helpless against their attackers. Firefighters were helpless against the blaze. I feel helpless. Isn't there anything I can do? The crowd was helpless with laughter. He was helpless with rage.
Recent Examples on the Web Canadiens goalie Jake Allen was helpless to stop Brad Marchand's backhand for the game-winner 34 seconds into overtime., 21 Mar. 2022 Days of intense shelling have left residents like her terrified to leave their homes, feeling helpless while food supplies run low. NBC News, 3 Mar. 2022 Some of our patients have even shared feeling helpless. Jonah Valdezstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 28 May 2022 Debt is stressful, and that stress can have adverse effects on your physical and mental health, hurt relationships with your partner, and leave you feeling helpless. Melissa Houston, Forbes, 26 Apr. 2022 As Vaid’s condition deteriorated and her many friends felt increasingly helpless, Vaid and Clinton issued instructions—send cards, send love, don’t send any more food. Masha Gessen, The New Yorker, 24 May 2022 Mary Snipes can relate to the helpless feeling of having a relative fall victim to a preventable death. USA Today, 15 May 2022 After taking a 1-0 lead 12 minutes into the New England game, FC Cincinnati looked helpless at times as a full-strength Revolution club scored give unanswered goals. Pat Brennan, The Enquirer, 13 May 2022 Brochures marketing Mount Pilatus detail helpless cattle lifted into the sky and, for centuries, residents exchanged accounts of uprooted trees and flooding so heavy that the government of Lucerne forbade anyone from climbing the mountain. New York Times, 12 May 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of helpless

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

History and Etymology for helpless

see help entry 1

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Time Traveler for helpless

Time Traveler

The first known use of helpless was before the 12th century

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Dictionary Entries Near helpless

helping verb



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Statistics for helpless

Last Updated

21 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Helpless.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Jun. 2022.

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More Definitions for helpless


help·​less | \ ˈhelp-ləs How to pronounce helpless (audio) \

Kids Definition of helpless

: without help or defense a helpless infant

Other Words from helpless

helplessly adverb
helplessness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on helpless

Nglish: Translation of helpless for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of helpless for Arabic Speakers


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