From Middle English helples, from Old English *helplēas (helpless) from Proto-Germanic *helpōlausaz, equivalent to help +‎ -less. Compare Dutch hulpeloos (helpless), German hilflos (helpless), Swedish hjälplös (helpless).


  • IPA(key): /ˈhɛlplɪs/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: help‧less


helpless (comparative more helpless, superlative most helpless)

  1. Unable to defend oneself.
  2. Lacking help; powerless.
    • 1966, James Workman, The Mad Emperor, Melbourne, Sydney: Scripts, page 41:
      A gaoler struck him, pushing him back in place in the hopeless, helpless line of prisoners.
  3. Unable to act without help; needing help; feeble.
  4. Uncontrollable.
    a helpless urge
  5. (obsolete) From which there is no possibility of being saved.
    • (Can we date this quote?), Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene
      For, while they fly that gulf's devouring jawes,
      They on the rock are rent and sunck in helplesse wawes.


Further readingEdit