Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Obliterate

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is obliterate. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Obliterate most often means “to remove from existence; to destroy utterly all trace, indication, or significance of.”

// The tide eventually obliterated all evidence of our sandcastles.


“In June, for the first time in her career, Taylor took a summer break of three weeks to jump on a motorcycle and ride across the country. Publicly, she posted footage of food and the road. Privately, she sought conversation and connection that would obliterate her bubble.” — Matt Pearl, ABC Action News (Tampa Bay, Florida), 14 July 2022

Did You Know?

Obliterate has been preserved in our language for centuries, and that’s not nothing! The earliest evidence in our files traces obliterate back to 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, and eventually its meaning was generalized to removing anything from existence. In the meantime, physicians began using obliterate for the surgical act of filling or closing up a vessel, cavity, or passage with tissue, which would then cause the bodily part to collapse or disappear. Today obliterate thrives in the English lexicon with the various senses it has acquired over the years, including its final stamp on the language: “to cancel (something, especially a postage stamp).”

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