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[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 powerless
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Locomotion becomes feeble and tottering, the voice harsh, the intellect obtuse and powerless, and all the senses blunted.

    Select Temperance Tracts American Tract Society
  • No, no, too eagerly my soul deceives Its powerless self: I know this cannot be.

    Endymion John Keats
  • The captains all got a wigging for failing to keep us in hand; but they were powerless.

  • Sometimes the test was to show that the temptation was powerless.

    Folkways William Graham Sumner
  • Stunned, powerless, like a straw on the face of a torrent, he was swept onward he knew not whither.

British Dictionary definitions for powerless


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 powerless

early 15c., "lacking might or fortitude," from power (n.) + -less. Related: Powerlessly; powerlessness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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