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 His moments of verbal acuity and self-aware humor exist on a continuum with his equally sudden lapses into oblivion. Los Angeles Times, "Review: ‘The Father’ showcases Anthony Hopkins at his devastating best," 25 Feb. 2021 With water pressure anywhere from 1,000 to 2,500 PSI (for reference, a garden hose has an average water pressure of 40–60 PSI), these electric pressure washers can blast even the most stubborn dirt and stains into oblivion. Better Homes & Gardens, "The 8 Best Electric Pressure Washers to Zap Dirt in Seconds," 22 Feb. 2021 Bradbury's book ends with the folks back home nuking themselves into oblivion as surely as Burroughs' Barsoomians did. Gregory Mcnamee, CNN, "Why the red planet captures our imagination in movies and books," 21 Feb. 2021 Still, some Republicans in Arizona have now begun to sound the alarm, warning that the party is pushing itself into oblivion in a state where independent voters make up nearly a third of the electorate. Jennifer Medina, New York Times, "The Arizona G.O.P. Is Sticking With Trumpism, Whether Arizona Republicans Like It or Not," 19 Jan. 2021 Twenty years ago, June suckers were well on their way to oblivion due to Utahns’ use of Utah Lake as a place to dump pollution and stock with sport fish and other nonnatives. Brian Maffly, The Salt Lake Tribune, "How a once-endangered fish is bouncing back and why it’s good news for Utah Lake," 4 Jan. 2021 Unfortunately the exhibition has now fallen victim to the coronavirus, though its cancellation doesn’t consign it to oblivion, thanks to this catalog. Edward Rothstein, WSJ, "‘Alexander von Humboldt and the United States’ Review: American Cosmos," 11 Dec. 2020 This view of climate justice transforms the dominant narrative of climate change from one of a shared experience of gradual challenges into one where poor people, women, and minorities are on the front lines, serving as a vanguard against oblivion. Vann R. Newkirk Ii, The Atlantic, "The Heat Gap," 15 Oct. 2020 That protects social platforms, which can host trillions of messages, from being sued into oblivion by anyone who feels wronged by something someone else has posted. Barbara Ortutay, Anchorage Daily News, "Tech giants banned Trump. What happens next for social platforms and free speech?," 12 Jan. 2021

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

28 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Oblivion.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oblivion. Accessed 3 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for oblivion



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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