Classical Mythology. a river in Hades whose water caused forgetfulness of the past in those who drank of it.
(usually lowercase) forgetfulness; oblivion.

Origin of Lethe

< Latin < Greek, special use of lḗthē forgetfulness, akin to lanthánesthai to forget
Related formsLe·the·an [li-thee-uh n, lee-thee-uh n] /lɪˈθi ən, ˈli θi ən/, Le·thied, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for lethe

Historical Examples of lethe

  • Lethe felt that there was a passion that night riding her; a passion that far surpassed her own.

    Garrison's Finish

    W. B. M. Ferguson

  • For past the valley of Sleep flow the waters of Lethe, the river of Forgetfulness.

  • In the cares of a busy world, he may find a draught of the waters of Lethe.

    The Young Maiden

    A. B. (Artemas Bowers) Muzzey

  • When I was born no pitying angel dipped my spirit-fire in Lethe.

    Semiramis and Other Plays

    Olive Tilford Dargan

  • The theatres are dull as Lethe, and politics have lost their salt.

    Orley Farm

    Anthony Trollope

British Dictionary definitions for lethe



Greek myth a river in Hades that caused forgetfulness in those who drank its waters
Derived FormsLethean (lɪˈθiːən), adjective

Word Origin for Lethe

C16: via Latin from Greek, from lēthē oblivion
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for lethe


river of Hades (whose water when drunk caused forgetfulness of the past), from Greek lethe, literally "forgetfulness, oblivion," related to lethargos "forgetful," lathre "secretly, by stealth," lathrios "stealthy," lanthanein "to be hidden." Cognate with Latin latere "to be hidden" (see latent). Related: Lethean.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

lethe in Culture



In classical mythology, a river flowing through Hades. The souls of the dead were forced to drink of its waters, which made them forget what they had done, said, and suffered when they were alive.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.