cannot/can't help but, to be unable to refrain from or avoid; be obliged to: Still, you can't help but admire her.
    help oneself to,
    1. to serve oneself; take a portion of: Help yourself to the cake.
    2. 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.
    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

before 900; Middle English helpen, Old English helpan; cognate with German helfen
Related formshelp·a·ble, adjectiveun·der·help, nounun·help·a·ble, adjectiveun·helped, adjectivewell-helped, adjective

Synonyms for help

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.

Antonyms for help

3, 11. hinder. 7. afflict. 13. hindrance.

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

Examples from the Web for unhelpable

British Dictionary definitions for unhelpable



to assist or aid (someone to do something), esp by sharing the work, cost, or burden of somethinghe helped his friend to escape; she helped him climb out of the boat
to alleviate the burden of (someone else) by giving assistance
(tr) to assist (a person) to go in a specified directionhelp the old lady up from the chair
to promote or contribute toto help the relief operations
to cause improvement in (a situation, person, etc)crying won't help
(tr; preceded by can, could, etc; usually used with a negative)
  1. to avoid or refrain fromwe can't help wondering who he is
  2. (usually foll by it)to prevent or be responsible forI can't help it if it rains
to alleviate (an illness, etc)
(tr) to serve (a customer)can I help you, madam?
(tr foll by to)
  1. to serve (someone with food, etc) (usually in the phrase help oneself)may I help you to some more vegetables?; help yourself to peas
  2. to provide (oneself with) without permissionhe's been helping himself to money out of the petty cash
cannot help but to be unable to do anything else exceptI cannot help but laugh
help a person off with to assist a person in the removal of (clothes)
help a person on with to assist a person in the putting on of (clothes)
so help me
  1. on my honour
  2. no matter whatso help me, I'll get revenge


the act of helping, or being helped, or a person or thing that helpsshe's a great help
a helping
  1. a person hired for a job; employee, esp a farm worker or domestic servant
  2. (functioning as singular)several employees collectively
a means of remedythere's no help for it


used to ask for assistance
See also help out
Derived Formshelpable, 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

Word Origin and History for unhelpable



Old English help (m.), helpe (f.) "assistance, succor;" see help (v.). Most Germanic languages also have the noun form, cf. Old Norse hjalp, Swedish hjälp, Old Frisian helpe, Dutch hulp, Old High German helfa, German Hilfe. Use of help as euphemism for "servant" is American English, 1640s, tied up in notions of class and race.

A domestic servant of American birth, and without negro blood in his or her veins ... is not a servant, but a 'help.' 'Help wanted,' is the common heading of advertisements in the North, when servants are required. [Chas. Mackay, "Life and Liberty in America," 1859].

Though help also meant "assistant, helper, supporter" in Middle English (c.1200).



Old English helpan (class III strong verb; past tense healp, past participle holpen) "help, support, succor; benefit, do good to; cure, amend," from Proto-Germanic *helpan (cf. Old Norse hjalpa, Old Frisian helpa, Middle Dutch and Dutch helpen, Old High German helfan, German helfen), from PIE root *kelb- "to help" (cf. Lithuanian selpiu "to support, help").

Recorded as a cry of distress from late 14c. Sense of "serve someone with food at table" (1680s) is translated from French servir "to help, stead, avail," and led to helping "portion of food." Related: Helped (c.1300). The Middle English past participle holpen survives in biblical and U.S. dialectal use.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with unhelpable


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.