Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • transitive v. To do away with completely so as to leave no trace. See Synonyms at abolish.
  • transitive v. To wipe out, rub off, or erase (writing or other markings).
  • transitive v. Medicine To remove completely (a body organ or part), as by surgery, disease, or radiation.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To remove completely, leaving no trace; to wipe out; to destroy.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Scarcely distinct; -- applied to the markings of insects.
  • transitive v. To erase or blot out; to efface; to render undecipherable, as a writing.
  • transitive v. To wear out; to remove or destroy utterly by any means; to render imperceptible.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To blot or render undecipherable; blot out; erase; efface; remove all traces of.
  • Synonyms Erase, Expunge, etc. (see efface), rub out, rub off, wipe out, remove.
  • In entomology, almost effaced; obsolete or very indistinct, as the surface-markings of an insect.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. reduced to nothingness
  • v. mark for deletion, rub off, or erase
  • v. remove completely from recognition or memory
  • v. make undecipherable or imperceptible by obscuring or concealing
  • v. do away with completely, without leaving a trace

Etymologies

Latin oblitterāre, oblitterāt-, to erase, from ob litterās (scrībere), (to write) over letters (ob, over; see ob- + litterās, accusative pl. of littera, letter) and from oblītus, past participle of oblīvīscī, to forget; see oblivion.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin oblitterātus, perfect passive participle of oblitterō ("blot out"), from oblinō ("smear over"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Merriam-Webster tells us that the root of "obliterate" comes from the Latin word "littera", for "letter," so that obliterate really means to destroy the alphabet -- to erase not only every word but the very capacity to create words.

    John Eskow: The Obliterator: Hillary Channels Her Inner Doctor Strangelove

  • When CNN's Rick Sanchez had a panel discussion on Hillary's "obliterate Iran" comment, he rhetorically asked words to the effect "well, 'obliterate' is just a word ... what she meant was we would deal with Iran harshly ... so what's wrong with that?"

    McCain camp accuses Obama of making age an issue

  • Using the word obliterate, however, is the kind of language that we have seen George Bush use over the last seven years and it's precisely that kind of provocative language that Senator Clinton criticized others for in the past, suggesting that if you're running for president, you shouldn't be stirring up international incidents.

    CNN Transcript May 5, 2008

  • Using the word obliterate, however, is the kind of language that we've seen George Bush use over the last seven years.

    CNN Transcript May 5, 2008

  • ROBERTS: And in our conversation earlier today with Barack Obama, he criticized Hillary Clinton's use of the word obliterate when referring to Iran.

    CNN Transcript May 5, 2008

  • GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, the notion that the Iranians are complaining about saber rattling from Hillary Clinton because she used the word obliterate if they were to consider attacking Israel is kind of a joke.

    CNN Transcript May 1, 2008

  • She used the word obliterate, which kind of goes into, you know, words that oftentimes people use, nuke and stuff.

    CNN Transcript May 4, 2008

  • Using the word obliterate, however, is the kind of language that we have seen George Bush use over the last seven years.

    CNN Transcript May 5, 2008

  • Using the word obliterate however, is the kind of language that we have seen George Bush use over the last seven years and it's precisely that kind of provocative language that Senator Clinton criticized others for.

    CNN Transcript May 5, 2008

  • Using the word obliterate, however, is the kind of language that we have seen George Bush use over the last seven years and it's precisely that kind of provocative language that Senator Clinton criticized others for.

    CNN Transcript May 5, 2008

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