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Origin of helpful

Middle English word dating back to 1300–50; see origin at help, -ful
Related formshelp·ful·ly, adverbhelp·ful·ness, nouno·ver·help·ful, adjectiveo·ver·help·ful·ly, adverbo·ver·help·ful·ness, nounqua·si-help·ful, adjectivequa·si-help·ful·ly, adverbun·help·ful, adjectiveun·help·ful·ly, adverb

Synonyms for helpful

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Antonyms for helpful Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for unhelpful

Contemporary Examples of unhelpful

Historical Examples of unhelpful

  • It is good for nothing else that I know of: strong; but unhelpful and unthoughtful.

  • All I did actually say was commonplace and unhelpful enough.

    The Record of Nicholas Freydon

    A. J. (Alec John) Dawson

  • In southern Gaul, as it happens, archaeological remains are unhelpful.

  • And to this man she must present herself, late, penniless and unhelpful.

    The City of Delight

    Elizabeth Miller

  • He was a young man from Montpelier, just beginning to practise, and very mysterious and technical and modern and unhelpful.

    Tono Bungay

    H. G. Wells

British Dictionary definitions for unhelpful


  1. not serving a useful function


  1. serving a useful function; giving help
Derived Formshelpfully, adverbhelpfulness, 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 unhelpful

1590s, from un- (1) "not" + helpful. Related: Unhelpfully; unhelpfulness.



late 14c., from help (n.) + -ful. Related: Helpfully; helpfulness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper