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[help] /hɛlp/
verb (used with object)
to give or provide what is necessary to accomplish a task or satisfy a need; contribute strength or means to; render assistance to; cooperate effectively with; aid; assist:
He planned to help me with my work. Let me help you with those packages.
to save; rescue; succor:
Help me, I'm falling!
to make easier or less difficult; contribute to; facilitate:
The exercise of restraint is certain to help the achievement of peace.
to be useful or profitable to:
Her quick mind helped her career.
to refrain from; avoid (usually preceded by can or cannot):
He can't help doing it.
to relieve or break the uniformity of:
Small patches of bright color can help an otherwise dull interior.
to relieve (someone) in need, sickness, pain, or distress.
to remedy, stop, or prevent:
Nothing will help my headache.
to serve food to at table (usually followed by to):
Help her to salad.
to serve or wait on (a customer), as in a store.
verb (used without object)
to give aid; be of service or advantage:
Every little bit helps.
the act of helping; aid or assistance; relief or succor.
a person or thing that helps:
She certainly is a help in an emergency.
a hired helper; employee.
a body of such helpers.
a domestic servant or a farm laborer.
means of remedying, stopping, or preventing:
The thing is done, and there is no help for it now.
Older Use. helping (def 2).
(used as an exclamation to call for assistance or to attract attention.)
Verb phrases
help out, to assist in an effort; be of aid to:
Her relatives helped out when she became ill.
cannot / can't help but, to be unable to refrain from or avoid; be obliged to:
Still, you can't help but admire her.
help oneself to,
  1. to serve oneself; take a portion of:
    Help yourself to the cake.
  2. to take or use without asking permission; appropriate:
    They helped themselves to the farmer's apples. Help yourself to any of the books we're giving away.
so help me, (used as a mild form of the oath “so help me God”) I am speaking the truth; on my honor:
That's exactly what happened, so help me.
Origin of help
before 900; Middle English helpen, Old English helpan; cognate with German helfen
Related forms
helpable, adjective
underhelp, noun
unhelpable, adjective
unhelped, adjective
well-helped, adjective
1. encourage, befriend; support, second, uphold, back, abet. Help, aid, assist, succor agree in the idea of furnishing another with something needed, especially when the need comes at a particular time. Help implies furnishing anything that furthers one's efforts or relieves one's wants or necessities. Aid and assist, somewhat more formal, imply especially a furthering or seconding of another's efforts. Aid implies a more active helping; assist implies less need and less help. To succor, still more formal and literary, is to give timely help and relief in difficulty or distress: Succor him in his hour of need. 3. further, promote, foster. 6. ameliorate. 7. alleviate, cure, heal. 12. support, backing.
3, 11. hinder. 7. afflict. 13. hindrance.
Usage note
21. Help but, in sentences like She's so clever you can't help but admire her, has been condemned by some as the ungrammatical version of cannot help admiring her, but the idiom is common in all kinds of speech and writing and can only be characterized as standard. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for help out
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • “Well, I got a friend may be willing to help out,” said Mr. Gubb.

  • That'll help out the general impression that I've gone to pieces.

    The Market-Place Harold Frederic
  • As Sadie's generally on hand to help out, I'm ready to stand for it.

    Shorty McCabe Sewell Ford
  • There were four children, one being a big boy who could help out.

    A Labrador Doctor

    Wilfred Thomason Grenfell
  • I heard that you have found it very difficult to get help out here.

    In Apple-Blossom Time

    Clara Louise Burnham
British Dictionary definitions for help out

help out

verb (adverb)
to assist or aid (someone), esp by sharing the burden
to share the burden or cost of something with (another person)


to assist or aid (someone to do something), esp by sharing the work, cost, or burden of something: he helped his friend to escape, she helped him climb out of the boat
to alleviate the burden of (someone else) by giving assistance
(transitive) to assist (a person) to go in a specified direction: help the old lady up from the chair
to promote or contribute to: to help the relief operations
to cause improvement in (a situation, person, etc): crying won't help
(transitive; preceded by can, could, etc; usually used with a negative)
  1. to avoid or refrain from: we can't help wondering who he is
  2. (usually foll by it) to prevent or be responsible for: I can't help it if it rains
to alleviate (an illness, etc)
(transitive) to serve (a customer): can I help you, madam?
(transitive) foll by to
  1. to serve (someone with food, etc) (usually in the phrase help oneself): may I help you to some more vegetables?, help yourself to peas
  2. to provide (oneself with) without permission: he's been helping himself to money out of the petty cash
cannot help but, to be unable to do anything else except: I cannot help but laugh
help a person off with, to assist a person in the removal of (clothes)
help a person on with, to assist a person in the putting on of (clothes)
so help me
  1. on my honour
  2. no matter what: so help me, I'll get revenge
the act of helping, or being helped, or a person or thing that helps: she's a great help
a helping
  1. a person hired for a job; employee, esp a farm worker or domestic servant
  2. (functioning as sing) several employees collectively
a means of remedy: there's no help for it
used to ask for assistance
See also help out
Derived Forms
helpable, adjective
helper, noun
Word Origin
Old English helpan; related to Old Norse hjalpa, Gothic hilpan, Old High German helfan
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
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Word Origin and History for help out



Old English help (m.), helpe (f.) "assistance, succor;" see help (v.). Most Germanic languages also have the noun form, cf. Old Norse hjalp, Swedish hjälp, Old Frisian helpe, Dutch hulp, Old High German helfa, German Hilfe. Use of help as euphemism for "servant" is American English, 1640s, tied up in notions of class and race.

A domestic servant of American birth, and without negro blood in his or her veins ... is not a servant, but a 'help.' 'Help wanted,' is the common heading of advertisements in the North, when servants are required. [Chas. Mackay, "Life and Liberty in America," 1859].
Though help also meant "assistant, helper, supporter" in Middle English (c.1200).



Old English helpan (class III strong verb; past tense healp, past participle holpen) "help, support, succor; benefit, do good to; cure, amend," from Proto-Germanic *helpan (cf. Old Norse hjalpa, Old Frisian helpa, Middle Dutch and Dutch helpen, Old High German helfan, German helfen), from PIE root *kelb- "to help" (cf. Lithuanian selpiu "to support, help").

Recorded as a cry of distress from late 14c. Sense of "serve someone with food at table" (1680s) is translated from French servir "to help, stead, avail," and led to helping "portion of food." Related: Helped (c.1300). The Middle English past participle holpen survives in biblical and U.S. dialectal use.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with help out

help out

Give additional assistance, as in I offered to help out with the holiday rush at the store. [ Early 1600s ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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