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[help-lis] /ˈhɛlp lɪs/
unable to help oneself; weak or dependent:
a helpless invalid.
deprived of strength or power; powerless; incapacitated:
They were helpless with laughter.
affording no help.
Origin of helpless
1125-75; Middle English; see help, -less
Related forms
helplessly, adverb
helplessness, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for helpless
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It seems to him that he has never been so angry in all his life, and never so helpless.

    Floyd Grandon's Honor Amanda Minnie Douglas
  • I remembered the helpless kid that Paralus confided to my care.

    Philothea Lydia Maria Child
  • It looks as if you had forgotten that I was with you—as if you were left alone and helpless.

    The Dead Secret Wilkie Collins
  • But she could not get her mother's feeling of him as a helpless, dependent thing.

  • He had been placed at the mine to defend it, and he was helpless to direct the men.

    With Wolseley to Kumasi F.S. Brereton
British Dictionary definitions for helpless


unable to manage independently
made powerless or weak: they were helpless from so much giggling
without help
Derived Forms
helplessly, adverb
helplessness, 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 helpless

"unable to act for oneself," c.1200, from help (n.) + -less. Related: Helplessly; helplessness. In Middle English and later sometimes also "unable to give help, affording no help" (late 14c.), but this was never common.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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