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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
  • The restrictions will however leave us more vulnerable and helpless in the face of these monsters.
  • They make you more vulnerable to stressors in the environment, to deciding that you are helpless even when you're not.
  • Feeling helpless leads us to see nonexistent patterns.
  • Squirrels are not as helpless as they may seem when confronted by rattlesnakes eager to make dinner of their pups.
  • Granite-gray mountain peaks glower at travelers, who gape in helpless awe at the land's stone-cold beauty.
  • And you think of how helpless they are as eggs and pupae, when they are stuck in place, unable to take evasive action.
  • The panelists and others in the room mumbled, they stammered, they were hopeless and helpless.
  • They can see their biological clocks running out before they achieve the golden ring of tenure, but they feel helpless.
  • Sam's own fate is tied to that of the ring yet he is helpless to determine his future in a direct manner.
  • And when students expect to be molly-coddled, it encourages them to continue to be helpless.
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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