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[help-lis] /ˈhɛlp lɪs/
unable to help oneself; weak or dependent:
a helpless invalid.
deprived of strength or power; powerless; incapacitated:
They were helpless with laughter.
affording no help.
Origin of helpless
Middle English word dating back to 1125-75; See origin at help, -less
Related forms
helplessly, adverb
helplessness, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for helpless
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I remembered the helpless kid that Paralus confided to my care.

    Philothea Lydia Maria Child
  • John made a helpless gesture, and at a renewed call, went indoors.

    The Armourer's Prentices Charlotte M. Yonge
  • She fell to the floor in helpless, shrieking laughter when he came.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • But she could not get her mother's feeling of him as a helpless, dependent thing.

  • Nay, we must carry on and play the part of the helpless merchant.

    The White Company Arthur Conan Doyle
British Dictionary definitions for helpless


unable to manage independently
made powerless or weak: they were helpless from so much giggling
without help
Derived Forms
helplessly, adverb
helplessness, noun
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 helpless

"unable to act for oneself," c.1200, from help (n.) + -less. Related: Helplessly; helplessness. In Middle English and later sometimes also "unable to give help, affording no help" (late 14c.), but this was never common.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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