1 a : to remove from recognition or memory
b : to remove from existence
2 : to make undecipherable by wiping out or covering over
Did You Know?
Far from being removed from existence, "obliterate" is thriving in our language today with various senses that it has acquired over the years. True to its Latin source, "oblitteratus," it began in the mid-16th century as a word for removing something from memory. Soon after, English speakers began to use it for the specific act of blotting out or obscuring anything written. Eventually (by the late 18th century), its meaning was generalized to removing anything from existence. In the meantime, another sense had developed. In the late 17th century, physicians began using "obliterate" for the surgical act of filling or closing up a vessel, cavity, or passage with tissue. Its final stamp on the English lexicon was delivered in the mid-19th century: "to cancel a postage or revenue stamp."
The epitaph on the centuries-old headstone had been obliterated by wind, rain, and age.
"With the forecast for the end of the month included, monthly-averaged temperatures for March across large parts of the Great Lakes and Northern Plains will thoroughly obliterate previous records, blasting through the temperature ceiling modern climate has until now defined." - From a post by Greg Postel on the Washington Post's "Capital Weather Gang" blog, March 27, 2012
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Name That Synonym
Fill in the blanks to create a synonym of "obliterate": eaiae. The answer is ...
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