Old English help (m.), helpe (f.) "assistance, succor," from help (v.). Most Germanic languages also have the noun form, such as Old Norse hjalp, Swedish hjälp, Old Frisian helpe, Dutch hulp, Old High German helfa, German Hilfe. Use of help as euphemism for "servant" is American English, 1640s, originally in New England. Bartlett (1848) describes it as "The common name in New England for servants, and for the operatives in a cotton or woollen factory."
A domestic servant of American birth, and without negro blood in his or her veins ... is not a servant, but a 'help.' 'Help wanted,' is the common heading of advertisements in the North, when servants are required. [Chas. Mackay, "Life and Liberty in America," 1859].
Though help also meant "assistant, helper, supporter" in Middle English (c. 1200).
Old English helpan "help, support, succor; benefit, do good to; cure, amend" (transitive, class III strong verb; past tense healp, past participle holpen), from Proto-Germanic *helpan (source also of Old Norse hjalpa, Old Frisian helpa, Middle Dutch and Dutch helpen, Old High German helfan, German helfen), from PIE root *kelb- "to help" (source also of Lithuanian selpiu "to support, help").
Intransitive sense, "afford aid or assistance," is from early 13c. Recorded as a cry of distress from late 14c. Sense of "serve someone with food at table" (1680s) is translated from French servir "to help, stead, avail," and led to helping "portion of food." Help yourself as an invitation, in reference to food, etc., is from 1894. Related: Helped (c. 1300). The Middle English past participle holpen survives in biblical and U.S. dialectal use.
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