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[pou-er-lis] /ˈpaʊ ər lɪs/
unable to produce an effect:
a disease against which modern medicine is virtually powerless.
lacking power to act; helpless:
His legs crumpled, and he was powerless to rise.
Origin of powerless
First recorded in 1545-55; power + -less
Related forms
powerlessly, adverb
powerlessness, noun
1. ineffective. 2. feeble, impotent, prostrate, infirm. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for powerless
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The old woman echoed the cry; but there were none to hear it, and she was powerless to aid.

    The Channings Mrs. Henry Wood
  • I took the knife from her powerless hand, and she fainted in my arms.

  • With all his powers of intellect, he was powerless, because he had no faith in virtue.

    Self-Help Samuel Smiles
  • Within the circle of their light the poison of serpents and worms is powerless.

  • To my eyes the sun seemed dim, its beams were powerless to warm me.

    A Hero of Our Time M. Y. Lermontov
British Dictionary definitions for powerless


without power or authority
Derived Forms
powerlessly, adverb
powerlessness, 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 powerless

early 15c., "lacking might or fortitude," from power (n.) + -less. Related: Powerlessly; powerlessness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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