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  • enPR: hĕlp, IPA(key): /hɛlp/
  • Rhymes: -ɛlp
  • (file)
  • (file)

Etymology 1

From Middle English help, from Old English help (help, aid, assistance, relief), from Proto-Germanic *helpō (help), *hilpiz, *hulpiz, from Proto-Indo-European *ḱelb-, *ḱelp- (to help). Cognate with West Frisian help (help), Dutch hulp (help), Low German Hülp (help), Swedish hjälp (help), German Hilfe (help, aid, assistance), Danish hjælp (help), Norwegian hjelp (help).


help (usually uncountable, plural helps)

  1. (uncountable) Action given to provide assistance; aid.
    I need some help with my homework.
  2. (usually uncountable) Something or someone which provides assistance with a task.
    He was a great help to me when I was moving house.
    I've printed out a list of math helps.
  3. Documentation provided with computer software, etc. and accessed using the computer.
    I can't find anything in the help about rotating an image.
  4. (usually uncountable) One or more people employed to help in the maintenance of a house or the operation of a farm or enterprise.
    The help is coming round this morning to clean.
    Most of the hired help is seasonal, for the harvest.
  5. (uncountable) Correction of deficits, as by psychological counseling or medication or social support or remedial training.
    His suicide attempts were a cry for help.
    He really needs help in handling customer complaints.
    “He’s a real road-rager.” / “Yup, he really needs help, maybe anger management.”
Usage notes
  • The sense “people employed to help in the maintenance of a house” is usually an uncountable mass noun. A countable form - “a hired help”, “two hired helps” - is attested, but now less common.

For quotations of use of this term, see Citations:help.

Derived terms
Terms derived from help (noun)

Etymology 2

From Middle English helpen, from Old English helpan (to help, aid, assist, benefit, relieve, cure), from Proto-Germanic *helpaną (to help), from Proto-Indo-European *ḱelb-, *ḱelp- (to help). Cognate with West Frisian helpe (to help), Dutch helpen (to help), Low German hölpen (to help), German helfen (to help), Danish hjælpe (to help), Norwegian hjelpe (to help), Lithuanian šelpti (to help, support).


help (third-person singular simple present helps, present participle helping, simple past helped or (archaic) holp, past participle helped or (archaic) holpen)

  1. (transitive) To provide assistance to (someone or something).
    • 2013 June 22, “Snakes and ladders”, in The Economist, volume 407, number 8841, page 76:
      Risk is everywhere. [] For each one there is a frighteningly precise measurement of just how likely it is to jump from the shadows and get you. “The Norm Chronicles” [] aims to help data-phobes find their way through this blizzard of risks.
    He helped his grandfather cook breakfast.
  2. (transitive) To assist (a person) in getting something, especially food or drink at table; used with to.
    It is polite to help your guests to food before serving yourself.
    Help yourself to whatever's in the fridge.
  3. (transitive) To contribute in some way to.
    The white paint on the walls helps make the room look brighter.
    If you want to get a job, it helps to have some prior experience.
  4. (intransitive) To provide assistance.
    • 1963, Margery Allingham, chapter 19, in The China Governess[1]:
      As soon as Julia returned with a constable, Timothy, who was on the point of exhaustion, prepared to give over to him gratefully. The newcomer turned out to be a powerful youngster, fully trained and eager to help, and he stripped off his tunic at once.
    • 2013 June 29, “A punch in the gut”, in The Economist, volume 407, number 8842, page 72-3:
      Mostly, the microbiome is beneficial. It helps with digestion and enables people to extract a lot more calories from their food than would otherwise be possible. Research over the past few years, however, has implicated it in diseases from atherosclerosis to asthma to autism.
    She was struggling with the groceries, so I offered to help.
    Please, help!
  5. (transitive) To avoid; to prevent; to refrain from; to restrain (oneself). Usually used in nonassertive contexts with can.
    We couldn’t help noticing that you were late.
    We couldn’t help but notice that you were late.
    She’s trying not to smile, but she can’t help herself.
    Can I help it if I'm so beautiful?
    Can I help it that I fell in love with you?
    Are they going to beat us? Not if I can help it!
    She never does more than she can help.
Usage notes
Derived terms
Terms derived from help (verb)



  1. A cry of distress or an urgent request for assistance
    — Take that, you scoundrel.
    Help! Robin, help!
    (Robin Hood (1973))



From Dutch helpen.


help (present help, present participle helpende, past participle gehelp)

  1. to help





  1. first-person singular present indicative of helpen
  2. imperative of helpen

Old English


From Proto-Germanic *helpō.



help f

  1. help


  • Middle English: help


help in Joseph Bosworth and T. Northcote Toller (1898) An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary



Borrowed from English help.



help m (uncountable)

  1. help, aid


West Frisian


From Old Frisian helpe, from Proto-Germanic *helpō.



help c (plural helpen, diminutive helpke)

  1. help, assistance, aid
    Synonyms: assistinsje, bystân

Further reading

  • help (I)”, in Wurdboek fan de Fryske taal (in Dutch), 2011