unable to help oneself; weak or dependent: a helpless invalid.
deprived of strength or power; powerless; incapacitated: They were helpless with laughter.
affording no help.

Origin of helpless

Middle English word dating back to 1125–75; see origin at help, -less
Related formshelp·less·ly, adverbhelp·less·ness, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for helplessness

Contemporary Examples of helplessness

Historical Examples of helplessness

  • We are not always marking time on the same spot of ignorance and helplessness.

  • We cannot stop making them, but we can give them a name that conceals our helplessness.

  • She signified her helplessness with a quick and dainty movement of her hands.

    The Black Bag

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • It is, at its very plainest, mingled of a regard for hilarity and a regard for helplessness.

    Alarms and Discursions

    G. K. Chesterton

  • But she would go on, until in my helplessness I remarked how beautiful the day had been.

    The Cavalier

    George Washington Cable

British Dictionary definitions for helplessness



unable to manage independently
made powerless or weakthey were helpless from so much giggling
without help
Derived Formshelplessly, adverbhelplessness, 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

Word Origin and History for helplessness



"unable to act for oneself," c.1200, from help (n.) + -less. Related: Helplessly; helplessness. In Middle English and later sometimes also "unable to give help, affording no help" (late 14c.), but this was never common.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper