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

transitive verb

: to remove utterly from recognition or memory
… a successful love crowned all other successes and obliterated all other failures.J. W. Krutch
: to remove from existence : destroy utterly all trace, indication, or significance of
The tide eventually obliterated all evidence of our sandcastles.
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
: to make undecipherable or imperceptible by obscuring or wearing away
A dimness like a fog envelops consciousness / As mist obliterates a crag.Emily Dickinson
: cancel sense 2
obliterate a postage stamp
obliteration noun
obliterator noun

Did you know?

Obliterate has been preserved in our language for centuries, and that’s not nothing! The earliest evidence in our files traces obliterate back to 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, and eventually its meaning was generalized to removing anything from existence. In the meantime, physicians began using obliterate for the surgical act of filling or closing up a vessel, cavity, or passage with tissue, which would then cause the bodily part to collapse or disappear. Today obliterate thrives in the English lexicon with the various senses it has acquired over the years, including its final stamp on the language: “to cancel (something, especially a postage 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 Kremlin's military has been hitting civilian targets just as hard, using powerful glide bombs that obliterate buildings and leave huge craters. arkansasonline.com, 26 June 2024 That night, Penelope makes up her mind and tosses her stack of Whistledown columns into the fire, obliterating all traces of her work. Sara Netzley, EW.com, 13 June 2024 By not jumping on this train, Team USA is going to be obliterated by it. Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times, 8 June 2024 The move provoked alarm among critics, who said the president was trying to obliterate checks and balances. Natalie Kitroeff, New York Times, 30 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for obliterate 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'obliterate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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).

First Known Use

1548, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of obliterate was in 1548


Dictionary Entries Near obliterate

Cite this Entry

“Obliterate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obliterate. Accessed 23 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


oblit·​er·​ate ə-ˈblit-ə-ˌrāt How to pronounce obliterate (audio)
obliterated; obliterating
: to remove or destroy completely : wipe out
obliteration noun

Medical Definition


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

More from Merriam-Webster on obliterate

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