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90s Slang You Should Know


[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. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for powerlessness
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The offer to sit by Perez was almost involuntary on her part, merely a sign of her sense of powerlessness against him.

    The Duke of Stockbridge Edward Bellamy
  • "If I could only do anything to help," cried Polly, oppressed with her own powerlessness.

    An Old-fashioned Girl Louisa May Alcott
  • It exists by virtue of habit and indifference, aided by a conviction of its powerlessness.

  • It was heart-breaking to her to realise her powerlessness, when he could so easily empty his purse.

    The Dream Emile Zola
  • The Department, which is disposed to resist, has its hands tied and confesses its powerlessness.

British Dictionary definitions for powerlessness


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 powerlessness



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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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