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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English pouerles, powerles, equivalent to power +‎ -less.



powerless (comparative more powerless, superlative most powerless)

  1. Lacking sufficient power or strength.
    I admit that I am powerless over my hatred towards white people in ways that I am unable to recognize fully, both at this time and in the past.
    • 1890, James George Frazer, The Golden Bough, volume 2, page 362:
      In Sweden, as we saw, the mistletoe which is gathered on Midsummer Eve is attached to the ceiling of the house, the horse's stall or the cow's crib, in the belief that this renders the Troll powerless to injure man and beast.
      1899 February, Joseph Conrad, “The Heart of Darkness”, in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, volume CLXV, number M, New York, N.Y.: The Leonard Scott Publishing Company, [], →OCLC, part I, page 196:
      “Imagine the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate.”
    • 1914, James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:
      It is said that his right arm had grown powerless from having been raised so often over the heads of those whom he baptized.
    • 2017, David Walliams, Bad Dad:
      Frank desperately wanted to help. To do something. Anything. But he was powerless to stop what was about to happen.
  2. Lacking legal authority.
    The traffic warden was powerless to stop me driving away.
  3. Without electricity or electrical power.
    During the storm, the entire neighborhood was left powerless for several hours



Derived terms[edit]