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  1. Nautical.
    1. a wheel or tiller by which a ship is steered.
    2. the entire steering apparatus of a ship.
    3. the angle with the fore-and-aft line made by a rudder when turned: 15-degree helm.
  2. the place or post of control: A stern taskmaster was at the helm of the company.
verb (used with object)
  1. to steer; direct.

Origin of helm1

before 900; Middle English helme, Old English helma; cognate with Middle High German halme, helm handle, Old Norse hjalm rudder
Related formshelm·less, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for helmless

Historical Examples

  • From that moment, helmless though he was, the issue lay in doubt no longer.

    Fair Margaret

    H. Rider Haggard

  • For more than twenty years I have been tossed about as a helmless vessel, without compass or reckoning.

British Dictionary definitions for helmless


  1. nautical
    1. the wheel, tiller, or entire apparatus by which a vessel is steered
    2. the position of the helm: that is, on the side of the keel opposite from that of the rudder
  2. a position of leadership or control (esp in the phrase at the helm)
  1. (tr) to direct or steer
Derived Formshelmless, adjective

Word Origin

Old English helma; related to Old Norse hjalm rudder, Old High German halmo


  1. an archaic or poetic word for helmet
  1. (tr) archaic, or poetic to supply with a helmet

Word Origin

Old English helm; related to helan to cover, Old Norse hjalmr, Gothic hilms, Old High German helm helmet, Sanskrit śárman protection
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for helmless



"a helmet," c.1200, from Old English helm "protection, covering; crown, helmet," and perhaps also from cognate Old Norse hjalmr, from Proto-Germanic *helmaz "protective covering," from PIE *kel- "to cover, to hide" (see cell). Italian elmo, Spanish yelmo are from Germanic.



"handle of a tiller," late 13c., from Old English helma "rudder; position of guidance, control," from Proto-Germanic *halbma- (cf. Old Norse hjalm, Old High German helmo, German Helm "handle"), from PIE *kelp- "to hold, grasp" (see helve).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with helmless


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.