Definition of help in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /hɛlp/


[with object]
1Make it easier or possible for (someone) to do something by offering them one’s services or resources: they helped her with domestic chores [with object and infinitive]: she helped him find a buyer [no object]: the teenager helped out in the corner shop
More example sentences
  • Long-term funding is desperately being sought for a voluntary service that helps local victims of domestic violence.
  • Well, I helped out then and Boris is helping me out now.
  • Sometimes we were helped out by relations and friends with muscles and, of course, the boys chipped in.
assist, aid, help out, lend a hand to, lend a helping hand to, give assistance to, come to the aid of, succour, aid and abet;
be of service to, be of use to, be useful to;
cooperate with, do one's bit for, rally round, pitch in, chip in
informal get someone out of a tight spot, save someone's bacon, save someone's skin
British informal muck in with, get stuck in with
1.1Improve (a situation or problem); be of benefit to: upbeat comments about prospects helped confidence [no object]: legislation to fit all new cars with catalytic converters will help
More example sentences
  • I think the worst of the weather is over but the continuing rain will not help the situation and it is likely to get colder again.
  • This situation is not helped by the predicament he has with his wide midfield players.
  • I remain unconvinced that the occupation forces are really helping the situation, instead of continuing to antagonize large sections of the people.
relieve, soothe, ameliorate, alleviate, make better, ease, improve, assuage, palliate, lessen, mitigate;
remedy, cure, heal, restore
1.2 [with object and adverbial of direction] Assist (someone) to move: I helped her up
More example sentences
  • The girl was beside the table before I could even move, helping me down slowly without really touching me too much.
  • A police spokesman said the driver was helped out of the car by people nearby and that no-one was injured.
  • The arena has emptied by the time the stricken fighter is helped out of the ring.
1.3 (help someone on/off with) Assist someone to put on or take off (a garment): she would help him off with his coat
More example sentences
  • Then you've got to help him off with what's left of his shirt.
  • He helps Justin on with his boots, and laces up a long black leather fingerless glove over Frankie's wrist.
  • He is fun and opens door and helps me on with my coat.
2 (help someone to) Serve someone with (food or drink): may I help you to some more meat? she helped herself to a biscuit
More example sentences
  • Everyone helps themselves to some juicy grilled hamburgers, some plump sausages and some plastic covered hotdogs.
  • Dave pours another plastic cup of sherry and helps himself to his 173rd Cadburys bar while ignoring colleagues' pleas of ‘Those were bought for the whole office, you know!’
  • He always tries to eat my food and if we have visitors he often gets on to their chair and helps himself.
2.1 (help oneself) Take something without permission: he helped himself to the wages she had brought home
More example sentences
  • Mum and Dad spent the next hour trying to explain that it was alright for them to take the money, that we hadn't just stolen the book and helped ourselves and then left an IOU.
  • Now, whenever Grandma visits, Zack is careful to whisper for permission in my ear, before reaching out and helping himself.
  • A postal worker who stole more than £25,000 by helping himself to pension and child benefit payments has been spared jail.
steal, take, appropriate, take possession of, ‘borrow’, ‘liberate’, pocket, purloin, commandeer, make free with, use without asking
British informal nick, pinch, whip, knock off
North American informal heist, glom
West Indian informal tief
3 (can/could not help) Cannot or could not avoid: he couldn’t help laughing I’m sorry to put you to any inconvenience, but it can’t be helped
More example sentences
  • As he got closer to Stuart, he couldn't help but laugh when he saw how filthy she was.
  • She did a funny little curtsy which Josh and Silver couldn't help but laugh at.
  • I couldn't help but think that their owners would have felt considerable heartache.
be unable to stop, be unable to prevent oneself from, be unable to refrain from, be unable to keep from, be unable to forbear from, be unable to break the habit of
3.1 (can/could not help oneself) Cannot or could not stop oneself from doing something: she couldn’t help herself; she burst into tears
More example sentences
  • We were laughing and laughing and couldn't stop, couldn't help ourselves.
  • I knew I should've stopped there but I couldn't help myself.
  • Then he couldn't help himself, couldn't stop his eyes from momentarily moving to the cemetery.


[mass noun]
1The action of helping someone to do something: I asked for help from my neighbours
More example sentences
  • She gives advice, guidance, help, and motivation to her students at City College.
  • All of you provided me with invaluable help and advice that aided me to gain my first year certificate with a Merit pass.
  • The FBI has also been too reluctant in the past to accept help or advice from other security services.
1.1The fact of being useful: the skimpy manual isn’t much help for beginners
More example sentences
  • Thus annual measurement would be of little help in avoiding serious effects.
  • He intends to run the 500 yards, but believes his strict fitness regime won't be much help.
  • This is not much help for determining adverse effects if they aren't common and the trials aren't very large.
1.2A person or thing that helps: she’s been given financial help with travel [in singular]: he was a great help
More example sentences
  • He was asked if the early poll which showed him losing his seat had in fact been a help.
  • It would be a great help for both vendors and occupants or employees of the buildings.
  • For most families with children it is a great help in their daily lives to have a car.
1.3 [count noun] A domestic employee: she has taught herself to cook since the defection of the last of the village helps
domestic worker, domestic help, domestic servant, cleaner, cleaning woman, cleaning lady, home help, maid, housemaid, housekeeper, servant, hired help, helper, assistant, employee, worker
British informal daily, daily woman, skivvy, Mrs Mop
British dated charwoman, charlady, char
archaic scullion, abigail
1.4 [as modifier] Giving assistance to a computer user in the form of displayed instructions: a help menu
More example sentences
  • As a result the hardware maker agreed to change its source code, user manuals and help screens.
  • There is a detailed help file and I have found email support adequate for my needs.
  • When was the last time you used an online help system or opened a computer software manual?


Used as an appeal for urgent assistance: Help! I’m drowning!



a helping hand

Assistance: she was always ready to lend a helping hand
More example sentences
  • She was a wonderful neighbour and friend and loved to lend a helping hand and words of encouragement.
  • A good and kind neighbour, Josie always liked to lend a helping hand and sound advice.
  • Billy and John are great supporters of the guild always ready to lend a helping hand.

so help me (God)

Used to emphasize that one means what one is saying: if you don’t get out, so help me I’ll let you have it
More example sentences
  • So help me God, if you stop any member of my staff one more time for another one of your needless questions, you will be dealing with me.
  • When I put my hand on the Bible, I will swear to not only uphold the laws of our land, I will swear to uphold the honor and dignity of the office to which I have been elected, so help me God.
  • It may have deprived me of the full experience, but so help me, I just can't bring myself to watch the accompanying DVD.

there is no help for it

There is no way of avoiding or remedying a situation: we’ll be up all night but there’s no help for it
More example sentences
  • I'm never going to be able to look at her paws because she won't let me pick her up, so, if that's the case, there's no help for it except to go to the vet.
  • ‘Nobody knows how I hated to see the boys go to war,’ Treadway mourned privately, ‘but it seems there is no other way and no help for it.
  • Should we have left the poor creature to lie there dying while marking time for these officials to arrive, finally for them to decide after a few days of waiting that there was no help for it but to shoot it and put it out of its misery at last?


Old English helpan (verb), help (noun), of Germanic origin; related to Dutch helpen and German helfen.

  • Old English help lies behind helpmate. This is found in the late 17th century as helpmeet which comes from Genesis 2:18 where Eve is described as ‘an help meet for’ Adam. ‘Meet’ means suitable, but as the word became more obscure in the early 18th century it was changed to mate.

Words that rhyme with help

kelp, whelp, yelp

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: help

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.