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 formspow·er·less·ly, adverbpow·er·less·ness, noun

Synonyms for powerless

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for powerless

Contemporary Examples of powerless

Historical Examples of powerless

  • The old woman echoed the cry; but there were none to hear it, and she was powerless to aid.

    The Channings

    Mrs. Henry Wood

  • I took the knife from her powerless hand, and she fainted in my arms.

  • With all his powers of intellect, he was powerless, because he had no faith in virtue.


    Samuel Smiles

  • Within the circle of their light the poison of serpents and worms is powerless.

  • To my eyes the sun seemed dim, its beams were powerless to warm me.

    A Hero of Our Time

    M. Y. Lermontov

British Dictionary definitions for powerless



without power or authority
Derived Formspowerlessly, adverbpowerlessness, 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 powerless

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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper