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 increased hype around the Lionesses' team largely stemmed from the growing interest in this year's Women's World Cup, which saw a record-breaking 28.1 million viewers in the UK, obliterating the figures from the previous tournament in 2015. SI.com, "Lionesses' Game Against Germany at Wembley Sells Out Three Weeks in Advance of Historic Clash," 16 Oct. 2019 After obliterating nearly every box office record imaginable in its opening weekend, Avengers: Endgame has officially become the highest-grossing movie of all time. De Elizabeth, Teen Vogue, ""Avengers: Endgame" Surpasses "Avatar" as Highest-Grossing Movie of All Time," 21 July 2019 Tough conditions in 2017, including extended periods of low oxygen and low salinity, had all but obliterated the crop that should have been reaching maturity in the winter of 2018-19. al, "Alabama oyster harvesters back at work after lost year," 3 Jan. 2020 Black cinema ran the gamut of genre, obliterated heteronormity, and even put pre-teen talent on the map for all of us to celebrate. Candice Frederick, Essence, "The 20 Best Black Films Of The Last Decade," 27 Dec. 2019 The Bucks were also the team that stopped the 33-game run by the Los Angeles Lakers that remains the NBA record, a surge in 1972 that obliterated Milwaukee's 20-game NBA record. Jr Radcliffe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Bucks' winning streak continues, unlike Warriors' streak that died 4 years ago today in Milwaukee," 12 Dec. 2019 Just see how Sabonis was obliterated twice on hard fouls from Embiid, the first one upgraded to a Flagrant 1. J. Michael, Indianapolis Star, "Insider: Judge Myles Turner by what he does (or doesn't) do on the floor, not social media," 1 Dec. 2019 His car wasn't as lucky, with the bumper hanging off and the back windshield obliterated. Leah Asmelash, CNN, "A Utah state trooper has a near-death experience for the second time in six months," 30 Nov. 2019 One area where Bose unsurprisingly obliterates the AirPods Pro: battery. Alexander George, Popular Mechanics, "Can Apple's New AirPods Pro Handle a Cross-Country Flight?," 5 Nov. 2019

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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Time Traveler for obliterate

Time Traveler

The first known use of obliterate was in 1548

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Statistics for obliterate

Last Updated

21 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Obliterate.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obliterate. Accessed 22 January 2020.

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More Definitions for obliterate


How to pronounce obliterate (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of obliterate

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


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

Kids Definition of obliterate

: to remove, destroy, or hide completely


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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