9 Grammatical Pitfalls


[pou-er-lis] /ˈpaʊ ər lɪs/
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
1545-55; power + -less
Related forms
powerlessly, adverb
powerlessness, noun
1. ineffective. 2. feeble, impotent, prostrate, infirm. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for powerlessness
  • The authors propose that self-destructive acts are responses of individuals to frustrating political powerlessness.
  • The chief minister blithely claimed ignorance or powerlessness.
  • There is a certain sense of powerlessness that has crept into how people think about politics.
  • The rest of us felt the powerlessness of resignation.
  • The elderly represent your own mortality, and your powerlessness to do anything but manage decline.
  • Suicide terrorism is attractive, because it fosters this sense of powerlessness within the targeted society.
  • None of this is meant to condone throwing up one's hands and feigning powerlessness.
  • People were suffering from a sense of alienation from one another, of anomie, of powerlessness.
  • Finally, the teenaged mind follows a killing impulse, and power is lustily grabbed by a brain long convinced of its powerlessness.
  • If it is true that absolute power corrupts, so can absolute powerlessness.
British Dictionary definitions for powerlessness


without power or authority
Derived Forms
powerlessly, adverb
powerlessness, 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
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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
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