• synonyms


  1. Classical Mythology. a river in Hades whose water caused forgetfulness of the past in those who drank of it.
  2. (usually lowercase) forgetfulness; oblivion.
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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. 2018

Examples from the Web for lethean

Historical Examples

  • What Lethean waters were these floods of telegraphed intelligence!

    Sister Carrie

    Theodore Dreiser

  • No; unless in that land, whither her face is set, she find the fabled Lethean stream.

    The Death Shot

    Mayne Reid

  • O'er me, Lethean darkness, creep Unfelt as tides through dead men's bones!

    The Burning Wheel

    Aldous Huxley

  • He was taunted and barked at and dogged so constantly that no Lethean waters could wash out the maddening memory.

  • This blank tract of repulsive land, so strangely dedicated to death, had lost every hint of Lethean likeness.

    An Ambitious Woman

    Edgar Fawcett

British Dictionary definitions for lethean


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

Word Origin

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 lethean


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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

lethean 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.

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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.