obliterate

verb
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

By the time the fire passed, almost all of Paradise, once home to 26,000 people, was obliterated. Umair Irfan, Vox, "The Paradise fire is catastrophic. And the wildfire threat to California is only growing.," 17 Nov. 2018 That reputation has been obliterated by recent scandals. Emily Flitter And Glenn Thrush, New York Times, "Wells Fargo Said to Be Target of $1 Billion U.S. Fine," 19 Apr. 2018 Following an Iranian rocket barrage, the Israel Defense Forces pounded Syria with significant airstrikes, obliterating dozens of targets associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Malkah Fleisher, Jewish Journal, "Israel destroys 50 Iranian targets in Syria after missiles launched at Golan Heights by Iran," 10 May 2018 Hux used his Starkiller base to obliterate several planets of the Galactic Republic before returning for more malicious mayhem against the Resistance in The Last Jedi. Bryan Alexander, USA TODAY, "'Star Wars' General Hux, Domhnall Gleeson, is the dark force hunting 'Peter Rabbit'," 5 Feb. 2018 Researchers like Shah believe that as the brain metabolizes the ketamine, new neural pathways are created that help restore function obliterated by depression. Alice Levitt, Vox, "I tried ketamine to treat my depression. Within a day, I felt relief.," 24 July 2018 The Kings took 40 shots, but any offensive attack was obliterated by their lack of defense and puck management. Curtis Zupke, latimes.com, "Kings suffer worst defeat of season in 7-2 loss to Blues," 10 Mar. 2018 Fire officials estimated that fully 80% of the community nestled in the Sierra Nevada foothills 100 miles north of Sacramento had been obliterated by the Camp Fire, the largest and deadliest in California history. Sara Randazzo, WSJ, "What’s Left in Two Communities After Fires Killed 44," 12 Nov. 2018 Some of this might have been inadvertent, in the same way that construction crews mindlessly obliterate ants. Seth Shostak /, NBC News, "If space aliens are out there, why haven't we found them?," 11 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

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

14 Jan 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 \
obliterated; obliterating

Kids Definition of obliterate

: to remove, destroy, or hide completely

obliterate

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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