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[lee-thee] /ˈli θi/
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 forms
[li-thee-uh n, lee-thee-uh n] /lɪˈθi ən, ˈli θi ən/ (Show IPA),
Lethied, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for Lethe
Historical Examples
  • A girl discharged from the 'Lethe' had earned five guineas by writing a thousand words in a hated but largely read daily paper.

    A Bed of Roses W. L. George
  • When I was born no pitying angel dipped my spirit-fire in Lethe.

    Semiramis and Other Plays Olive Tilford Dargan
  • Duller shouldst thou be than the fat weedThat rots itself in ease on Lethe wharf,—Would'st thou not stir in this!

  • Not for all the world would I bathe my soul in the waters of Lethe.

    The War Trail Mayne Reid
  • We crossed several rivers; besides the “Echo,” one called the “Styx,” the other the “Lethe.”

    With Axe and Rifle W.H.G. Kingston
  • For past the valley of Sleep flow the waters of Lethe, the river of Forgetfulness.

    A Book of Myths Jean Lang
  • Lethe was the river of forgetfulness, and those who drank of it forgot their former life and were ready for a new one.

  • The waters of the sullen Lethe, rolling doom, are sounding too loudly in our own ears.

    Obiter Dicta Augustine Birrell
  • France, in the parlance of the hour, was to drink the waters of Lethe.

    The Life of Napoleon Bonaparte William Milligan Sloane
  • The essential can, at most, only be dimmed by the drinking of Lethe.

British Dictionary definitions for Lethe


(Greek myth) a river in Hades that caused forgetfulness in those who drank its waters
Derived Forms
Lethean (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
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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
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Lethe in Culture
Lethe [(lee-thee)]

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 American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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