[ help ]
See synonyms for: helphelpedhelpinghelps on

verb (used with object)
  1. to give or provide what is necessary to accomplish a task or satisfy a need; contribute strength or means to; render assistance to; cooperate effectively with; aid; assist: He planned to help me with my work. Let me help you with those packages.

  2. to save; rescue; succor: Help me, I'm falling!

  1. to make easier or less difficult; contribute to; facilitate: The exercise of restraint is certain to help the achievement of peace.

  2. to be useful or profitable to: Her quick mind helped her career.

  3. to refrain from; avoid (usually preceded by can or cannot): He can't help doing it.

  4. to relieve or break the uniformity of: Small patches of bright color can help an otherwise dull interior.

  5. to relieve (someone) in need, sickness, pain, or distress.

  6. to remedy, stop, or prevent: Nothing will help my headache.

  7. to serve food to at table (usually followed by to): Help her to salad.

  8. to serve or wait on (a customer), as in a store.

verb (used without object)
  1. to give aid; be of service or advantage: Every little bit helps.

  1. the act of helping; aid or assistance; relief or succor.

  2. a person or thing that helps: She certainly is a help in an emergency.

  1. a hired helper; employee.

  2. a body of such helpers.

  3. a domestic servant or a farm laborer.

  4. means of remedying, stopping, or preventing: The thing is done, and there is no help for it now.

  5. Older Use. helping (def. 2).

  1. (used as an exclamation to call for assistance or to attract attention.)

Verb Phrases
  1. help out, to assist in an effort; be of aid to: Her relatives helped out when she became ill.

Idioms about help

  1. cannot / can't help but, to be unable to refrain from or avoid; be obliged to: Still, you can't help but admire her.

  2. help oneself to,

    • to serve oneself; take a portion of: Help yourself to the cake.

    • to take or use without asking permission; appropriate: They helped themselves to the farmer's apples. Help yourself to any of the books we're giving away.

  1. so help me, (used as a mild form of the oath “so help me God”) I am speaking the truth; on my honor: That's exactly what happened, so help me.

Origin of help

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

synonym study For help

1. 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.

usage note For help

21. Cannot/can't help but has been condemned by some as the ungrammatical version of cannot/can’t help followed by the present participle: You can’t help but admire her. You can’t help admiring her. However, the idiom Cannot/can't help but is so common in all types of speech and writing that it must be characterized as standard.

Other words for help

Opposites for help

Other words from help

  • help·a·ble, adjective
  • un·der·help, noun
  • un·help·a·ble, adjective
  • un·helped, adjective
  • well-helped, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use help in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for help


/ (hɛlp) /

  1. to assist or aid (someone to do something), esp by sharing the work, cost, or burden of something: he helped his friend to escape; she helped him climb out of the boat

  2. to alleviate the burden of (someone else) by giving assistance

  1. (tr) to assist (a person) to go in a specified direction: help the old lady up from the chair

  2. to promote or contribute to: to help the relief operations

  3. to cause improvement in (a situation, person, etc): crying won't help

  4. (tr; preceded by can, could, etc; usually used with a negative)

    • to avoid or refrain from: we can't help wondering who he is

    • (usually foll by it) to prevent or be responsible for: I can't help it if it rains

  5. to alleviate (an illness, etc)

  6. (tr) to serve (a customer): can I help you, madam?

  7. (tr foll by to)

    • to serve (someone with food, etc) (usually in the phrase help oneself): may I help you to some more vegetables?; help yourself to peas

    • to provide (oneself with) without permission: he's been helping himself to money out of the petty cash

  8. cannot help but to be unable to do anything else except: I cannot help but laugh

  9. help a person off with to assist a person in the removal of (clothes)

  10. help a person on with to assist a person in the putting on of (clothes)

  11. so help me

    • on my honour

    • no matter what: so help me, I'll get revenge

  1. the act of helping, or being helped, or a person or thing that helps: she's a great help

  2. a helping

    • a person hired for a job; employee, esp a farm worker or domestic servant

    • (functioning as singular) several employees collectively

  1. a means of remedy: there's no help for it

  1. used to ask for assistance

Origin of help

Old English helpan; related to Old Norse hjalpa, Gothic hilpan, Old High German helfan

Derived forms of help

  • helpable, adjective
  • helper, 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

Other 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.