Nearby words

  1. helot,
  2. helotism,
  3. helotomy,
  4. helotry,
  5. helots,
  6. help oneself,
  7. help out,
  8. help screens,
  9. helper,
  10. helper cell


Origin of help

before 900; Middle English helpen, Old English helpan; cognate with German helfen

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.

Related forms

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 Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for help

British Dictionary definitions for help



to assist or aid (someone to do something), esp by sharing the work, cost, or burden of somethinghe helped his friend to escape; she helped him climb out of the boat
to alleviate the burden of (someone else) by giving assistance
(tr) to assist (a person) to go in a specified directionhelp the old lady up from the chair
to promote or contribute toto help the relief operations
to cause improvement in (a situation, person, etc)crying won't help
(tr; preceded by can, could, etc; usually used with a negative)
  1. to avoid or refrain fromwe can't help wondering who he is
  2. (usually foll by it)to prevent or be responsible forI can't help it if it rains
to alleviate (an illness, etc)
(tr) to serve (a customer)can I help you, madam?
(tr 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 permissionhe's been helping himself to money out of the petty cash
cannot help but to be unable to do anything else exceptI 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 whatso help me, I'll get revenge


the act of helping, or being helped, or a person or thing that helpsshe's a great help
a helping
  1. a person hired for a job; employee, esp a farm worker or domestic servant
  2. (functioning as singular)several employees collectively
a means of remedythere's no help for it


used to ask for assistance
See also help out

Derived Formshelpable, adjectivehelper, noun

Word Origin for help

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

Word Origin and History for help
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with help


In addition to the idioms beginning with help

  • helping hand
  • help oneself
  • help out

also see:

  • can't help but
  • every little bit helps
  • not if one can help it
  • so help me
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.