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

British Dictionary definitions for help out (1 of 2)

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)

British Dictionary definitions for help out (2 of 2)


/ (hɛlp) /




used to ask for assistance
See also help out

Derived Forms

helpable, 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

Idioms and Phrases with help out (1 of 2)

help out

Give additional assistance, as in I offered to help out with the holiday rush at the store. [Early 1600s]

Idioms and Phrases with help out (2 of 2)


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.