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 powerlessness

Contemporary Examples of powerlessness

Historical Examples of powerlessness

  • It was heart-breaking to her to realise her powerlessness, when he could so easily empty his purse.

    The Dream

    Emile Zola

  • All other goodness is but too often an idleness or powerlessness of will.


    Francois Duc De La Rochefoucauld

  • But the colonel's despondent look expressed his powerlessness.

    The Downfall

    Emile Zola

  • "We've been, sir," said the Archdeacon, and then followed an explanation of the Bishop's powerlessness.

    The Christian

    Hall Caine

  • I never felt my powerlessness so much as I have since you come.

    Janet of the Dunes

    Harriet T. Comstock

British Dictionary definitions for powerlessness



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 powerlessness



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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper