verb oblit·er·ate \ ə-ˈbli-tə-ˌrāt , ō- \
Updated on: 16 Apr 2018
obliterated; obliterating
1 a : 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 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 2
  • obliterate a postage stamp


play \ə-ˌbli-tə-ˈrā-shən, ō-\ noun


play \ə-ˈbli-tə-ˌrā-tər, ō-\ noun

obliterate was our Word of the Day on 11/22/2017. Hear the podcast!

Examples of obliterate in a Sentence

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

Recent Examples of obliterate from the Web

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.

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."

Origin and Etymology of obliterate

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

OBLITERATE Defined for English Language Learners


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

OBLITERATE Defined for Kids


verb oblit·er·ate \ ə-ˈbli-tə-ˌrāt \
obliterated; obliterating
: to remove, destroy, or hide completely

Medical Dictionary


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


play \-ˌblit-ə-ˈrā-shən\ noun

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to speak or write verbosely and windily

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