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

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web According to patents filed by the company, a counterbalance spinning opposite the rocket gets released at the same time, preventing the tether from becoming unbalanced and vibrating into oblivion. Daniel Oberhaus, Wired, "Inside SpinLaunch, the Space Industry’s Best Kept Secret," 29 Jan. 2020 The look more or less disappeared into oblivion after 2010, becoming a distant memory of spring-fling dances past. Bella Cacciatore, Glamour, "The Glitter French Manicure Is 2020’s Coolest Nail Trend," 24 Jan. 2020 Just lately, that star power has returned to a Golden State team that cascaded into oblivion. Bruce Jenkins, SFChronicle.com, "Warriors still making a splash — on the sidelines," 22 Jan. 2020 The Patriots ended up trading that 43rd pick into oblivion, ending up with a handful of rookies (including quarterback Jarrett Stidham), none of whom has made an impact in the NFL yet. Ben Volin, BostonGlobe.com, "The Jimmy Garoppolo deal actually worked out well for both the Patriots and 49ers," 21 Jan. 2020 Into oblivion goes everything and everyone Job loves. Christian Wiman, Harper's magazine, "The Cancer Chair," 20 Jan. 2020 American flamingos were hunted nearly to oblivion for food and feathers during the late 1800s, when the species dipped to a low of about 10,000 animals restricted to a single Bahamian island. National Geographic, "Meet Flamingo Bob, the poster bird for conservation," 9 Jan. 2020 Almost all art, even a lot of the good stuff, is ephemeral: toil, creation, then oblivion. Zach Helfand, The New Yorker, "DJ Shadow’s Sonic Archeology," 6 Jan. 2020 By entering the fairy-tale domain, with its monsters, risks and ordeals, Gerda must try to recover the beloved person lost behind his deep-frozen oblivion. The Economist, "A new retelling of “The Snow Queen” is aimed squarely at adults," 31 Dec. 2019

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.

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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-

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Time Traveler for oblivion

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

6 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Oblivion.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oblivion. Accessed 16 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for oblivion


How to pronounce oblivion (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of oblivion

: the state of something that is not remembered, used, or thought about any more
: the state of being unconscious or unaware : the state of not knowing what is going on around you
: the state of being destroyed


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.

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