obliterate

verb
oblit·​er·​ate | \ ə-ˈbli-tə-ˌrāt How to pronounce obliterate (audio) , 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 How to pronounce obliteration (audio) , ō-​ \ noun
obliterator \ ə-​ˈbli-​tə-​ˌrā-​tər How to pronounce obliterator (audio) , 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

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press argued that the inadvertent disclosure by prosecutors about charges against Assange obliterates the need for secrecy. Matthew Barakat, The Seattle Times, "Judge defers action on request to unseal Assange charges," 27 Nov. 2018 Investigators say Flight 610 crashed at high speed, obliterating the plane upon impact. Ben Otto, WSJ, "Crashed Lion Air Plane’s Missing Black Box Goes Silent," 16 Nov. 2018 Temperatures shot up over 110 degrees in Southern California on Friday, obliterating all kinds of long-standing heat records, and the lights went out for tens of thousands of customers. Jason Samenow, Washington Post, "Record heat put thousands of Californians in the dark Friday. Scientists predicted this from climate change.," 9 July 2018 Its seamless wall-to-wall carpet obliterates any hint of nature, the scent of cateria food permeates the first floor corridors, the ring of elevator cars creates a perpetual dinging soundtrack in the lobby. Leslie Kendall Dye, Longreads, "City on a Hill," 23 June 2018 The Model X driver, Walter Huang, died March 23 when his vehicle crashed into a concrete lane divider and careened into oncoming lanes, obliterating the crossover and igniting a fire. Nathan Bomey, USA TODAY, "Tesla Model X driver killed in California crash wasn't holding steering wheel, NTSB says," 7 June 2018 Yes, books are, even though some strange impulse, harbored by strange people, seems bent on obliterating those, too. James Campbell, WSJ, "‘Literary Landscapes’ and ‘The Writer’s Map’ Review: X Marks the Plot," 21 Dec. 2018 One of my favorite things to do is glide over to the other team’s base, sneak into an unmanned turret, and completely obliterate all of my surroundings. Andrew Webster, The Verge, "Fortnite’s frantic food fight is its best mode yet," 15 Nov. 2018 The majority of House Democrats have co-sponsored a socialist takeover of health care that would obliterate Medicare. James Freeman, WSJ, "Is Trump Making Democrats Regret Their Bernie Sanders Crush?," 10 Oct. 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

borrowed from Latin oblīterātus, oblitterātus, past participle of oblīterāre, oblitterāre "to cause to be forgotten or fall into disuse, make disappear," from ob- "against, facing" + -līterāre, litterāre, verbal derivative of lītera, littera letter entry 1 — more at ob-

Note: The original meaning of oblīterāre was apparently "to wipe out letters, words, etc.," but this sense is not clearly attested in classical Latin. Attested senses appear to have been influenced by oblītus, past participle of oblīvīscī "to forget, put out of mind" (cf. oblivion).

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Last Updated

18 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for obliterate

The first known use of obliterate was in 1548

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More Definitions for obliterate

obliterate

verb

English Language Learners Definition of obliterate

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

obliterate

verb
oblit·​er·​ate | \ ə-ˈbli-tə-ˌrāt How to pronounce obliterate (audio) \
obliterated; obliterating

Kids Definition of obliterate

: to remove, destroy, or hide completely

obliterate

transitive verb
oblit·​er·​ate | \ ə-ˈblit-ə-ˌrāt, ō- How to pronounce obliterate (audio) \
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 How to pronounce obliteration (audio) \ noun

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