obliv·​i·​on | \ ə-ˈbli-vē-ən How to pronounce oblivion (audio) , ō-, ä- \

Definition of oblivion

1 : the fact or condition of not remembering : a state marked by lack of awareness or consciousness seeking the oblivion of sleep drank herself into oblivion
2 : the condition or state of being forgotten or unknown contentedly accepted his political oblivion … took the Huskers from oblivion to glory—and their two national championships …— D. S. Looney

Oblivion and the River Lethe

Oblivion was derived via Middle English and Anglo-French from Latin oblīvīscī, which means "to forget, put out of mind." Among the more literary synonyms of oblivion is lethe, which originally referred to the mythical River Lethe. According to Greek mythology, Lethe flowed through the Underworld and induced a state of forgetfulness—that is, oblivion—in anyone who drank its water. The poet John Milton is among those to connect the two in literature. He wrote in Paradise Lost "Farr off from these a slow and silent stream, Lethe the River of Oblivion roules Her watrie Labyrinth."

Examples of oblivion in a Sentence

The technology is destined for oblivion. The names of the people who lived here long ago have faded into oblivion. His theories have faded into scientific oblivion. Her work was rescued from oblivion when it was rediscovered in the early 1900s. After being awake for three days straight, he longed for the oblivion of sleep. She drank herself into oblivion. The little village was bulldozed into oblivion to make way for the airport. See More
Recent Examples on the Web The bust still spends his days staring out into oblivion in Young’s home, though perhaps without the same intensity. Elizabeth Djinis, Smithsonian Magazine, 6 May 2022 Next to her, her husband (and co-host), Ryan Reynolds, in classic white tie, faded into oblivion. New York Times, 3 May 2022 By Season 5, for which Moss was in preproduction, June has fled to Canada and, along with a pack of former Handmaids, pummelled Fred into oblivion. Michael Schulman, The New Yorker, 29 Apr. 2022 What’s more, by Tomas Pueyo’s estimation, Germany has spent $1 billion per week on Russian gas since the Bucha massacre was revealed on April 1 and Mariupol was bombed into oblivion. Wal Van Lierop, Forbes, 25 Apr. 2022 And just like that, our dreams of a Campion/Apatow Marvel film were snaptured into oblivion. Lester Fabian Brathwaite, EW.com, 22 Mar. 2022 Not even ketchup was going to bring them back from bland oblivion. Sharrona Pearl, Bon Appétit, 15 Feb. 2022 There appeared to be universal oblivion to the editorial’s gaping inaccuracy. Washington Post, 7 Feb. 2022 This is Tulsa: the place that gave John Hope Franklin bearing and passed a burden onto its sons like me: to be exceptional, or face oblivion. Rj Young, Travel + Leisure, 5 Feb. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'oblivion.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of oblivion

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for oblivion

Middle English oblivioun, borrowed from Anglo-French oblivion, obliviun, borrowed from Latin oblīviōn-, oblīviō "state of forgetting, dismissal from the memory," from oblīv-, stem of oblīvīscī "to forget, put out of mind" (from ob- "toward, facing" + -līvīscī, inchoative derivative of a stem līv- of uncertain meaning and origin) + -iōn-, -iō, suffix of action nouns formed from compound verbs — more at ob-

Learn More About oblivion

Time Traveler for oblivion

Time Traveler

The first known use of oblivion was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast About oblivion

Dictionary Entries Near oblivion




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for oblivion

Last Updated

11 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Oblivion.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oblivion. Accessed 19 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for oblivion


obliv·​i·​on | \ ə-ˈbli-vē-ən How to pronounce oblivion (audio) \

Kids Definition of oblivion

1 : the state of forgetting or having forgotten or of being unaware or unconscious
2 : the state of being forgotten The tradition has drifted into oblivion.

More from Merriam-Webster on oblivion

Nglish: Translation of oblivion for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of oblivion for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Eponyms: Words Named After People

Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!