What does Obliviate mean?

Obliviate is a spell used in the fantasy series Harry Potter that makes the recipient forget whatever you want them to forget.

It appears to be a combination of the similarly spelled terms “oblivious” and “obliterate”, and means “to forget”, “commit to oblivion”, or to “wipe from existence”.

It is not just a simple little slip of memory. It means to completely erase everything you have ever known about a particular thing or person.

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What's the origin of Obliviate?

All the way back in the 13th century we can find similar terms in Old French, such as “oblivion”, and in Ancient Latin “oblīviōnem”.

The first use of the English term can be dated back to the mid 17th century, found in the works of astrologer John Gadbury.

Spread & Usage

How did Obliviate spread?

The word itself is not used much. It is mostly known because of its use as The Memory Charm in chapter 9 of Harry Potter: The Deathly Hallows.

In the story, young witch “Hermione” uses the charm on her parents before she is about to leave them while going on a dangerous mission. She flips her wand and whispers “obliviate”, and the next moment, she is erased from their memories.

Harry Potter fan page harrypotter.fandom.com has provided thorough definitions, explanations and history of the charm for those particularly interested.

External resources

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