English edit

Etymology edit

PIE word

Learned borrowing from Latin obliterātus, oblitterātus (having been blotted out, effaced, erased; having been forgotten) + English -ate (suffix meaning ‘to act in [the specified manner]’ forming verbs, and ‘characterized by [the specified thing]’ forming adjectives). Obliterātus and oblitterātus are respectively the perfect passive participles of obliterō and oblitterō (to blot out, efface, erase, obliterate; to cause to be forgotten), probably either:

  • from ob- (prefix meaning ‘against; towards’) + littera (letter of the alphabet; (metonymically) handwriting) (further etymology unknown);[1] or
  • from oblītus (disregarded, neglected; forgotten), influenced by littera. Oblītus is the perfect passive participle of oblinō (to daub over, besmear), from ob- + possibly ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *h₁lengʷʰ- (not heavy, light; brief; swift).

Pronunciation edit

Verb edit

obliterate (third-person singular simple present obliterates, present participle obliterating, simple past and past participle obliterated)

  1. (transitive)
    1. To destroy (someone or something) completely, leaving no trace; to annihilate, to wipe out.
      Synonyms: bedash, do away with, eradicate, extirpate, raze, uproot; see also Thesaurus:destroy
      • 1605, Francis Bacon, “The First Booke”, in The Twoo Bookes of Francis Bacon. Of the Proficience and Aduancement of Learning, Diuine and Humane, London: [] [Thomas Purfoot and Thomas Creede] for Henrie Tomes, [], →OCLC, folio 31, recto:
        [H]e [Pope Gregory I] deſigned to obliterate and extinguiſh the memorie of Heathen antiquitie and Authors.
      • 1675, Richard Baxter, “[The First Book.] The First Part: []. Section XVIII. A Confutation of Dr. Twisse’s Digr. 5. l. 2. Sect. 1. Vind. Grat.”, in Richard Baxter’s Catholick Theologie: [], London: [] Robert White, for Nevill Simmons [], →OCLC, paragraph 588, page 94:
        This opinion ſeemeth to me, to leave very little or no place for the Chriſtian Religion. For [] It obliterateth the notion of Gods Holineſs, vvhich to be no Holineſs, but a common or indifferent thing.
      • 1701, Nehemiah Grew, “Of Mind. And First, of Phancy, or Phantastick Mind.”, in Cosmologia Sacra: Or A Discourse of the Universe as It is the Creature and Kingdom of God. [], London: [] W. Rogers, S. Smith, and B[enjamin] Walford: [], →OCLC, 2nd book, paragraph 21, page 43:
        VVhen vve forget Things; either the Impreſſions are obliterated, or the Images diſſolved into their firſt Principles, or Exterminated from the Brain, vvith the Current of the Animal Spirits into the Nerves.
      • 1849, Thomas Babington Macaulay, chapter IV, in The History of England from the Accession of James II, volume I, London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, →OCLC, page 450:
        All tenderness for the feelings of others, all selfrespect, all sense of the becoming, were obliterated from his [George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys's] mind.
      • 1872, Walt Whitman, “[Collect.] Preface, 1872, to ‘As a Strong Bird on Pinions Free,’ (now ‘Thou Mother with Thy Equal Brood,’ in Permanent Ed’n.).”, in Specimen Days & Collect, Philadelphia, Pa.: Rees Welsh & Co., [], published 1882–1883, →OCLC, page 279:
        The Four Years' War is over— [] A new race, a young and lusty generation, already sweeps in with oceanic currents, obliterating the war, and all its scars, its mounded graves, and all its reminiscences of hatred, conflict, death. So let it be obliterated.
      • 1876, William Black, “England, Farewell!”, in Madcap Violet. [], volume II, London: Macmillan and Co., →OCLC, pages 182–183:
        That is what distance does for us; the harsh and bitter feelings of this or that experience are slowly obliterated, and memory begins to look kindly on the past.
      • 1911, E[rnest] A[lfred Thompson] Wallis Budge, “Appendix: Translations from the Pyramid Texts of Pepi I, Mer-en-Rā, and Pepi II”, in Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection [], London: Philip Lee Warner; New York, N.Y.: G[eorge] P[almer] Putnam’s Sons, →OCLC, page 363:
        The seal of Pepi is in the House of Rurutȧ. The god who obliterateth sin, Ȧṭer-ȧsfet, obliterateth the transgressions which belong to Pepi in the presence of Khenti-merti in Sekhem.
      • 2022 January 12, Benedict le Vay, “The Heroes of Soham …”, in Rail, number 948, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire: Bauer Media, →ISSN, →OCLC, page 43:
        Soham's station had been completely obliterated (the replacement was to close in 1965 and is only now being reopened).
    2. To hide (something) by covering it; to conceal, to obscure.
      The rainclouds obliterated the sun as they swept across the sky.
      • 1607, Edward Topsell, “The English Bloudhounde”, in The Historie of Fovre-footed Beastes. [], London: [] William Iaggard, →OCLC, page 152:
        Likevviſe the fragrancy of euery greene herbe yeeldeth ſuch a ſauour, as doth not a little obliterate and ouerſvvay the ſauour of the beaſt: []
      • a. 1793 (date written), George Horne, “Discourse II. The Sinner Called.”, in Discourses on Several Subjects and Occasions, 4th edition, volume II, Oxford, Oxfordshire: [] J. Cooke; and G. G. J. and J. Robinson, T[homas] Cadell, and F[rancis] and C[harles] Rivington, [], published 1793, →OCLC, page 33:
        When the ſhadows of the evening are ſtretched out, [] when the veil, that is caſt over the face of nature, obliterateth the variety of colours which owe their being to the light, and aboliſheth all the diſtinction of objects thence ariſing, introducing a joyleſs and uncomfortable uniformity, and rendering it impoſſible for any to "go forth to their labour;" [] then it is that deep ſleep falleth upon man.
    3. (also figuratively) To make (a drawing, text which is printed or written, etc.) indecipherable, either by erasing or obscuring it; to blot out, to efface, to delete.
      Hyponyms: deface, paint out, (of text) mark out, (of text) strike through; see also Thesaurus:delete
      • 1623, Iohn Speed [i.e., John Speed], “Antoninus Heliogabalus”, in The Historie of Great Britaine under the Conquests of the Romans, Saxons, Danes and Normans. [], 2nd edition, London: [] Iohn Beale, for George Humble, [], →OCLC, book 6, paragraph 6, page 120, column 2:
        The Senate approuing all that vvas done, decreed that his name ſhould bee obliterated out of all monuments in Rome, and neuer any Antoninus (a name before very gracious) ſhould rule againe their Empire: ſo odious vvas the remembrance of this Image of Ignominy.
      • 1636, Daniel Featley, “The Danger of Relapse. The LVI Sermon.”, in Clavis Mystica: A Key Opening Divers Difficult and Mysterious Texts of Holy Scripture; [], London: [] R[obert] Y[oung] for Nicolas Bourne, [], →OCLC, page 773:
        [A]s one foule blot or daſh vvith a pen defaceth a vvhole vvriting, ſo one foule and enormous crime daſheth and obliterateth the faireſt copy of a vertuous life.
      • 1642, H[enry] M[ore], “ΨΥΧΑΘΑΝΑΣΙΑ [Psychathanasia] Platonica: Or A Platonicall Poem of the Immortality of Souls, Especially Mans Soul”, in ΨΥΧΩΔΙΑ [Psychōdia] Platonica: Or A Platonicall Song of the Soul, [], Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: [] Roger Daniel, printer to the Universitie, →OCLC, book 2, canto 3, stanza 11, page 19:
        As vvhen a name lodg'd in the memory, / But yet through time almoſt obliterate, / Confuſely hovers near the phantaſie: / The man that's thus affected bids relate / A catologue of names.
      • 1676, [Matthew Hale], “Of the Knowledge of Christ Crucified”, in Contemplations Moral and Divine. [], London: [] William Godbid, for William Shrowsbury [], and John Leigh [], →OCLC, page 247:
        Becauſe our Conſcience is ſprinkled by the blood of Chriſt, vvhich defaceth and obliterateth all thoſe black Items, that othervviſe vvould be continually calling upon us.
      • 1836, Hyam Isaacs, “Remarks on the Traditions and Ceremonies of the Jews”, in Ceremonies, Customs, Rites, and Traditions of the Jews, [], 2nd edition, London: [] T. and C. Buck, [] [for] S. Holdworth, [], →OCLC, page 58:
        Blessed art thou, O Lord, universal King! who pardonest and forgivest our sins, and the sins of thy people Israel, and obliteratest our guilt year after year; []
      • 1843, Edward Bulwer[-]Lytton, “Ill Fares the Country Mouse in the Traps of Town”, in The Last of the Barons, London; New York, N.Y.: George Routledge and Sons [], →OCLC, book II (The King’s Court), page 66:
        The walls had been rudely painted, (for arras then was rare, even among the wealthiest,) but the colours were half obliterated by time and damp.
      • 1891, Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d’Urbervilles: A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented [], volumes (please specify |volume=I to III), London: James R[ipley] Osgood, McIlvaine and Co., [], →OCLC:
        At least she could not be comfortable there till long years should have obliterated her keen consciousness of it.
      • 1907 August, Robert W[illiam] Chambers, “Silverside”, in The Younger Set, New York, N.Y.: D. Appleton & Company, →OCLC, page 316:
        Elbows almost touching they leaned at ease, idly reading the almost obliterated lines engraved there. "I never understood it," she observed, lightly scornful. "What occult meaning has a sun-dial for the spooney? I'm sure I don't want to read riddles in a strange gentleman's optics."
        An adjective use.
    4. (biology, pathology, surgery, chiefly passive voice) To impair the function and/or structure of (a body cavity, vessel, etc.) by ablating or occluding it (in the latter case, chiefly by filling it with tissue).
      • 1959 September, F. Ronald Edwards, “Vascular Compression of the Trachea and Oesophagus”, in N[orman] R[upert] Barrett, J[ohn] G[uyett] Scadding, editors, Thorax, volume XIV, number 3, London: British Medical Association, →DOI, →ISSN, →OCLC, →PMID, page 187, column 1:
        In the developing embryo the foregut is surrounded by a group of vascular structures of bilateral distribution connected with the branchial arches. Portions of these arches are obliterated to form the normally described aorta and great vessels. The ultimate persistence of only one main vascular arch, the left, as the aorta, permits the trachea and oesophagus to lie freely to its right side.
      • 1959 December, R. H. Elphinstone, R. G. Spector, “Sarcoma of the Pulmonary Artery”, in N[orman] R[upert] Barrett, J[ohn] G[uyett] Scadding, editors, Thorax[1], volume XIV, number 4, London: British Medical Association, →DOI, →ISSN, →OCLC, →PMID, page 335, column 1:
        The pleural sac was obliterated by firm fibrous adhesions over the right upper lobe.
      • 1974 July, Ira W. DuBrow, Sheldon O. Burman, Decio O. Elias, Alois R. Hastreiter, Raymond J. Pietras, “Aortic Arch in the Neck”, in The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, volume 68, number 1, [St. Louis, Mo.: Mosby?], →DOI, →ISSN, →PMID, page 27, column 1:
        Compression of an aneurysm of the left carotid artery should obliterate only the pulses of the distribution of this artery, not those of the femoral arteries. If the mass is an aneurysm of the right common carotid artery, manual compression should obliterate the distribution of this vessel and, because of its location, may also obliterate the vessels of the right arm. However, femoral pulsations should be preserved.
    5. (philately) To cancel (a postage stamp) with a postmark so it cannot be reused.
  2. (intransitive)
    1. To be destroyed completely, leaving no trace.
    2. (biology, pathology) Of a body cavity, vessel, etc.: to close up or fill with tissue; of perfusion or a pulse: to cease owing to obstruction.
      distal pulses obliterate until perfusion is restored

Conjugation edit

Derived terms edit

Related terms edit

Translations edit

See also edit

Adjective edit

obliterate (comparative more obliterate, superlative most obliterate) (obsolete)

  1. (except poetic) Completely destroyed or erased; effaced, obliterated.
    • 1628 January 4 (Gregorian calendar), John Donne, “Sermon V. Preached at St. Paul’s on Christmas-Day, 1627.”, in Henry Alford, editor, The Works of John Donne, D.D., [], volume I, London: John W[illiam] Parker, [], published 1839, →OCLC, page 90:
      [G]o to the herald's office, [] and thou shalt find in that office as many records of attainted families, and escheated families, and impoverished and forgotten, and obliterate families, as of families newly erected and presently celebrated.
    • 1647, Theodore de la Guard [pseudonym; Nathaniel Ward], The Simple Cobler of Aggawam in America. [], London: [] J[ohn] D[ever] & R[obert] I[bbitson] for Stephen Bowtell, [], →OCLC, page 32:
      It may maintain a bright conjecture, againſt a ruſty Truth: a legible poſſeſſion, againſt an obliterate Claime: []
    • 1659, Henry More, chapter IV, in The Immortality of the Soul, so Farre Forth as It is Demonstrable from the Knowledge of Nature and the Light of Reason, London: [] J[ames] Flesher, for William Morden [], →OCLC, book III, paragraph 9, page 374:
      And they being in a capacity to forget by reaſon of deſuetude, it vvill be a nevv pleaſure to them to recall to minde their almoſt obliterate ſpeculations.
  2. (entomology, rare) Of markings on an insect: difficult to distinguish from the background; faint, indistinct.

Derived terms edit

References edit

  1. ^ obliterate, v.”, in OED Online  , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, December 2022; “obliterate, v.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Italian edit

Etymology 1 edit

Verb edit


  1. inflection of obliterare:
    1. second-person plural present indicative
    2. second-person plural imperative

Etymology 2 edit

Participle edit

obliterate f pl

  1. feminine plural of obliterato

Latin edit

Verb edit


  1. second-person plural present active imperative of obliterō

Spanish edit

Verb edit


  1. second-person singular voseo imperative of obliterar combined with te