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

Fenolio said the expedition was quite a trip, including severe storms and a lightning strike that obliterated a communications antenna on the ship. Josh Baugh, ExpressNews.com, "San Antonio scientist on crew that captured video of an elusive giant squid in Gulf of Mexico," 24 June 2019 Perhaps the story of the historically African American neighborhood is so full that it cannot be told, in much the way the text in a Glenn Ligon painting obliterates itself by being painted over and over again. Sharon Mizota, latimes.com, "If an artist sets up a homeless camp inside a blue-chip art gallery, does anyone care?," 18 June 2019 What happened on Thursday night may have been the oddly catastrophic end of a team that obliterated ideas about how basketball should be played. Ben Cohen, WSJ, "The End of the Golden State Warriors’ Era of Invincibility," 14 June 2019 Supernova explosions could obliterate Earth’s ozone layer, for instance, which would wreak havoc on marine plankton and coral reefs. Quanta Magazine, "How Nearby Stellar Explosions Could Have Killed Off Large Animals," 15 Jan. 2019 By the time the news reaches commanders, the refueling aircraft are obliterated, the eight crew members onboard killed instantly. Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics, "What a U.S.-Russian War in Syria Could Look Like," 9 Oct. 2015 Many proponents of women’s liberation sought to obliterate old ideas about female frailty and celebrated what women’s bodies could do, whether breastfeeding or playing basketball. Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, The Atlantic, "The World That Jazzercise Built," 16 June 2019 Morante’s novels have the drive of a general ready to obliterate the field. Madeleine Schwartz, The New York Review of Books, "The Disillusionist," 7 Feb. 2019 Bay County includes Mexico Beach, the ground-zero town of 1,000 people that was nearly obliterated, as well as Tyndall Air Force Base, Panama City and Lynn Haven, all of which were heavily damaged. Jay Reeves, The Seattle Times, "Scope of Michael’s fury becomes clearer in Florida Panhandle," 16 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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Statistics for obliterate

Last Updated

8 Jul 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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