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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Did You Know?

Oblivion was derived via Middle English and Anglo-French from Latin oblivisci, which means "to forget." This form may have stemmed from combining ob- ("in the way") and levis ("smooth"). In the past, oblivion has been used in reference to the River Lethe, which according to Greek myth flowed through the Underworld and induced a state of forgetfulness in anyone who drank its water. Among those who have used the word this way is the poet John Milton, who 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

When this happened, she was stripped of her security clearance and sent off to a remote cubicle somewhere; she was basically condemned to oblivion. CBS News, "Whistleblower exposes $7 billion no-bid Defense Department contract," 30 June 2019 Some became cult heroes, others faded into oblivion. Shayna Rubin, The Mercury News, "A’s catcher Josh Phegley could be an All-Star — but, first, who is he?," 25 June 2019 To consign something to oblivion is not to be oblivious about it. Christian Wiman, WSJ, "‘A Primer for Forgetting’ Review: The Past Need Not Be Prologue," 21 June 2019 Hans Kammerlander, the first person to ski from the summit of Everest, abandoned his attempt in 2004 after watching a climber plummet past him to oblivion. National Geographic, "Meet the skier who made the 'impossible' first solo descent of K2," 12 June 2019 As Major League Baseball begins a downward slide to oblivion ... David Roth, The New Republic, "Making sense of Donald Trump's petulant reign," 12 June 2019 Democrats, in Third Way’s view, could tweet themselves into oblivion. E.j. Dionne Jr., The Mercury News, "Dionne: The quiet revolution in Democrats’ thinking," 20 June 2019 In May, local pastors and Christian leaders documented that at least 30 lives had been lost in the mayhem and more than 20 houses torched into oblivion. Fox News, "Nigeria’s Christian community slowly being erased as militants step up vicious killings, kidnappings," 19 June 2019 After a lifetime of near-paralyzing panic, Rue eventually turns to drugs for just a few seconds of oblivion. Ariana Romero, refinery29.com, "Euphoria Review: The Night Is Dark & Full Of Terrors (& Teens)," 5 June 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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Statistics for oblivion

Last Updated

10 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for oblivion

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

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on oblivion

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with oblivion

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for oblivion

Spanish Central: Translation of oblivion

Nglish: Translation of oblivion for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of oblivion for Arabic Speakers

Comments on oblivion

What made you want to look up oblivion? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to form ideas or theories about something

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