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 Thick plumes of smoke from coal fires hung in the air and the local artillery battery fired off rounds throughout the evening — both efforts to obliterate the microbes believed to be hanging in the night sky. Michael Birnbaum, Washington Post, "Live updates: Arizona, Florida, Texas are latest coronavirus epicenters," 28 June 2020 Hopefully, the spread of COVID-19 will obliterate that trend out of pure necessity. Amy Plitt, Condé Nast Traveler, "The New York City Subway May Work Differently After COVID-19," 27 May 2020 The Divine Savior Holy Angels star scored 55 points, obliterating the single-game scoring record in a WIAA state tournament game and helped the Dashers top Middleton in overtime in 2015. Jr Radcliffe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "50 in 50: Sam Dekker's magical surge lifts Sheboygan Lutheran to thrilling title," 7 Apr. 2020 Strasburg signed a record seven-year, $245 million deal Monday, obliterating the previous total value record of $217 million for a starting pitcher. Bob Nightengale, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Fallout from Stephen Strasburg's record-setting deal will affect Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon," 10 Dec. 2019 The Aloha State likely just wrapped up their warmest summer on record, obliterating records left and right and over and over again. Matthew Cappucci, chicagotribune.com, "Inside Hawaii’s wild summer of broken high temperature records," 30 Sep. 2019 Now home runs are on a pace to obliterate the record set in 2017. Ann Killion, SFChronicle.com, "Juicing — balls, not people — again tests baseball’s credibility," 10 July 2019 Major leaguers — who are subjected to strict in-season and off-season testing for performance-enhancing drugs — are on pace to hit more than 6,600 home runs this season, which would obliterate the record 6,105, set in 2017. Tyler Kepner, New York Times, "‘Just Come Out and Say It’: Players Want Answers on the Changing Ball," 9 July 2019 Return of the Jedi (1983) If this movie came out in 2020, it would probably get obliterated by Twitter instead of its actual reality as finale to arguably the greatest film trilogy of all time. Ben Flanagan | Bflanagan@al.com, al, "All the ‘Star Wars’ movies ranked: May the 4th be with you," 4 May 2020

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

7 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Obliterate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obliterate. Accessed 10 Jul. 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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