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

    An Ambitious Woman Edgar Fawcett
  • 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.

    Under the Stars and Bars Walter A. Clark
  • What lethean waters were these floods of telegraphed intelligence!

    Sister Carrie Theodore Dreiser
  • Had Juliet so seen her love tokens dishonoured the sooner would she have sought the lethean herbs of the good apothecary.

    The Four Million

    O. Henry
  • It is not a vulgar sensuality, a lethean torpor; the triumph of the grosser nature over the eternal principle within.

British Dictionary definitions for lethean


(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 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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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lethean 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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