oblit·er·ate | \ə-ˈbli-tə-ˌrāt, ō-\
obliterated; obliterating

Definition of obliterate 

transitive verb

1a : to remove utterly from recognition or memory … a successful love crowned all other successes and obliterated all other failures.— J. W. Krutch

b : to remove from existence : destroy utterly all trace, indication, or significance of The tide eventually obliterated all evidence of our sandcastles.

c medical : to cause (something, such as a bodily part, a scar, or a duct conveying body fluid) to disappear or collapse : remove sense 4 a blood vessel obliterated by inflammation

2 : to make undecipherable or imperceptible by obscuring or wearing away A dimness like a fog envelops consciousness / As mist obliterates a crag.— Emily Dickinson

3 : cancel sense 2 obliterate a postage stamp

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Other Words from obliterate

obliteration \ə-ˌbli-tə-ˈrā-shən, ō- \ noun
obliterator \ə-ˈbli-tə-ˌrā-tər, ō- \ noun

Did You Know?

Far from being removed from existence, "obliterate" is thriving in our language today with various senses that it has acquired over the years. True to its Latin source, oblitteratus, it began in the mid-16th century as a word for removing something from memory. Soon after, English speakers began to use it for the specific act of blotting out or obscuring anything written. Eventually (by the late 18th century), its meaning was generalized to removing anything from existence. In the meantime, another sense had developed. In the late 17th century, physicians began using "obliterate" for the surgical act of filling or closing up a vessel, cavity, or passage with tissue. Its final stamp on the English lexicon was delivered in the mid-19th century: "to cancel a postage or revenue stamp."

Examples of obliterate in a Sentence

in a stroke, the March snowstorm obliterated our hopes for an early spring

Recent Examples on the Web

Miller is a strong storyteller with great timing and confidence (go to YouTube to see her obliterate a heckler). Peter Hartlaub, San Francisco Chronicle, "What the Clusterfest? The Chronicle’s guide to navigating the comedy festival — banana stand included," 25 May 2018 The 25-year-old from South Korea shot a bogey-free 65 to finish at 31-under-par 257, obliterating the 72-hole LPGA Tour scoring record and tying the lowest score ever shot on the PGA Tour. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "D'Amato: She wanted to do 'something incredible,' and that Sei Young Kim did at Thornberry Creek," 8 July 2018 Duda saw seven pitches before obliterating a four-seam fastball that exceeded 98 mph. Chandler Rome, Houston Chronicle, "Yuli Gurriel's grand slam fuels Astros' rout of Royals," 24 June 2018 But last year’s Howard County Pitcher of the Year did not let his injury affect him from obliterating opposing pitching all year long. Kyle Stackpole, Howard County Times, "Marriotts Ridge junior Josh Olsufka captures baseball Player of the Year," 20 June 2018 This, Schwarcz says, can mill out excruciatingly small and thin sections of bone without obliterating its atomic-size structures. Angus Chen, Scientific American, "Core Strength: Extreme “Close Ups” May Help Explain Why Our Bones Are So Strong," 3 May 2018 Not all the Pels timeouts in the world could stop the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors from obliterating the Pels 123-101 in game one Saturday night. Ron Higgins, NOLA.com, "Golden State makes a statement in game 1 vs. the Pelicans that's impossible to ignore," 28 Apr. 2018 Much of the current activity is aimed at bolstering existing shelters and moving families away from steep, denuded slopes ahead of a monsoon season that aid agencies say could obliterate parts of the camps. Ben Otto, WSJ, "Rohingya Camps in Bangladesh Start to Look Permanent," 3 Apr. 2018 Before that, there were various attempts to obliterate any reasonable comprehension of the issue. Lauren Duca, Teen Vogue, "Donald Trump Is Still Gaslighting America. I Really Care. Do u?," 23 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'obliterate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of obliterate

1548, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for obliterate

Latin oblitteratus, past participle of oblitterare, from ob- ob- + littera letter

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Last Updated

14 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for obliterate

The first known use of obliterate was in 1548

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More Definitions for obliterate



English Language Learners Definition of obliterate

: to destroy (something) completely so that nothing is left


oblit·er·ate | \ə-ˈbli-tə-ˌrāt \
obliterated; obliterating

Kids Definition of obliterate

: to remove, destroy, or hide completely


transitive verb
oblit·er·ate | \ə-ˈblit-ə-ˌrāt, ō- \
obliterated; obliterating

Medical Definition of obliterate 

: to cause to disappear (as a bodily part or a scar) or collapse (as a duct conveying body fluid) a blood vessel obliterated by inflammation

Other Words from obliterate

obliteration \-ˌblit-ə-ˈrā-shən \ noun

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Comments on obliterate

What made you want to look up obliterate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to reject or criticize sharply

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