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 What Goulding does ridiculously well in this travelogue is ratchet up to that level, researching it into oblivion and then eating everything in sight. Ashlea Halpern, Condé Nast Traveler, "Best Books to Read if You're Dreaming of Japan," 30 Mar. 2020 There is an election going on as Rip returns from his decades-long oblivion, and elections tie us to the future in a particularly powerful way. Philip Kennicott, Washington Post, "On a last walk through the National Gallery, I’m reassured by images of an uncertain future," 13 Mar. 2020 Sade, though admired by Flaubert, among others, was, in fact, a figure of little literary consequence until the early twentieth century, when Guillaume Apollinaire rescued him from oblivion, by publishing in 1910 a collection of his novels. Mitchell Abidor, The New York Review of Books, "Reading Sade in the Age of Epstein," 12 Feb. 2020 President Trump and his allies nearly succeeded in consigning the Mueller report to oblivion. Jeffrey Toobin, The New Yorker, "Donald Trump’s Ukraine Scandal Has Its Roots in Russia," 6 Oct. 2019 Bezos dealt Barnes & Noble another blow when his Kindle device ushered in the e-books era, threatening to exile the bookseller to oblivion the same way Apple’s iTunes doomed Tower Records and Sam Goody. Washington Post, "Barnes & Noble Can’t Blame Amazon for Everything," 19 Sep. 2019 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

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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Statistics for oblivion

Last Updated

2 Apr 2020

Cite this Entry

“Oblivion.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oblivion. Accessed 4 Apr. 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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