oblivion

noun

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

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Oblivion and the River Lethe

Oblivion asks forgetfulness of us in both its meaning and etymology. The word’s Latin source, oblīvīscī, means “to forget; to put out of mind,” and since its 14th century adoption into English, oblivion has hewed close to meanings having to do with forgetting. The word has also long had an association with the River Lethe, which according to Greek myth flowed through the Underworld and caused anyone who drank its water to forget their past; 17th century poet John Milton wrote about “Lethe the River of Oblivion” in Paradise Lost. The adjective oblivious (“lacking remembrance, memory, or mindful attention”) followed oblivion a century later, but not into oblivion—both words have proved obdurate against the erosive currents of time.

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 However, if cysts still form, there are safer, more effective ways to relieve the pain and pressure than picking your outer layer into oblivion, Dr. Kenkare says. Sarah Klein, SELF, 15 Feb. 2024 Its striking art, which turns the moon into a spotlight and a forest into oblivion, is inimitable. Vulture, 2 Feb. 2024 Deer have browsed seedlings of manzanita and island scrub oak — a Channel Islands endemic — into oblivion in some places, according to conservancy scientists. Louis Sahagún, Los Angeles Times, 2 Feb. 2024 These terms have specific meanings that are legitimately useful for helping people make choices about their food, but they have been overused into oblivion. Yasmin Tayag, The Atlantic, 8 Jan. 2024 In the context of the movie, the scene is both hilarious and troubling: Here’s a man carb-loading his way to mental oblivion. Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times, 31 Dec. 2023 As such, homeopathic products begin with toxic substances that are then extremely diluted—often into oblivion—in a ritualistic procedure. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, 12 Dec. 2023 That, too, is a result of our decision to consign the lessons of the past to oblivion. Daniel Foster, National Review, 30 Nov. 2023 We’ll probably be put on hold a little while, for the foreseeable future, and sued to oblivion. Michael R. Sisak, Fortune, 13 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'oblivion.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

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-

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

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Dictionary Entries Near oblivion

Cite this Entry

“Oblivion.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oblivion. Accessed 2 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition

oblivion

noun
obliv·​i·​on ə-ˈbliv-ē-ən How to pronounce oblivion (audio)
ō-,
ä-
1
: the state of forgetting or having forgotten or of being unaware or unconscious
2
: the state of being forgotten

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