allusion

noun
al·​lu·​sion | \ ə-ˈlü-zhən How to pronounce allusion (audio) \

Definition of allusion

1 : an implied or indirect reference especially in literature a poem that makes allusions to classical literature also : the use of such references
2 : the act of making an indirect reference to something : the act of alluding to something

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Other Words from allusion

allusive \ -​ˈlü-​siv How to pronounce allusive (audio) , -​ziv \ adjective
allusively adverb
allusiveness noun

Allusion and Illusion

Allusion and illusion may share some portion of their ancestry (both words come in part from the Latin word ludere, meaning “to play”), and sound quite similar, but they are distinct words with very different meanings. An allusion is an indirect reference, whereas an illusion is something that is unreal or incorrect. Each of the nouns has a related verb form: allude “to refer indirectly to,” and illude (not a very common word), which may mean “to delude or deceive” or “to subject to an illusion.”

What is the word origin of allusion?

Allusion was borrowed into English in the middle of the 16th century. It derives from the Latin verb alludere, meaning "to refer to, to play with, or to jest," as does its cousin allude, meaning "to make indirect reference" or "to refer." Alludere, in turn, derives from a combination of the prefix ad- and ludere ("to play"). Ludere is a Latin word that English speakers have enjoyed playing with over the years; we've used it to create collude, delude, elude, and prelude, to name just a few.

Examples of allusion in a Sentence

There are lots of literary echoes and allusions in the novel, but they don't do anything for the tired texture of the prose. — Tony Tanner, New York Times Book Review, 6 Apr. 1997 So while the former engineering professor with an IQ reportedly tipping 180 enjoys bombarding his staff with math wizardry, scientific jargon and computerese, he also drops frequent allusions to his baseball card and stamp collections … — Maureen Dowd, New York Times Magazine, 16 Sept. 1990 To my ear this is a beautiful reenactment of the prose of the antebellum South, with its careful grammar, its stately cadences, and its classical allusions and quotations. — Cleanth Brooks, The Language of the American South, 1985 The lyrics contain biblical allusions. She made allusion to her first marriage.
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Recent Examples on the Web

And the novel’s contemporary setting exhibits the markings of Gothic terror, with wry allusions to Frankenstein, Edgar Allan Poe and even Stephen King. Ron Charles Critic, Washington Post, "In Sadie Jones’s “The Snakes,” parents are more venomous than reptiles," 2 July 2019 Apart from some allusions to number series and prime numbers, a cryptographic puzzle, and Katherine’s obsession with the famous Riemann hypothesis, Chung doesn’t try. Julia M. Klein, chicagotribune.com, "The Catherine Chung equation: math + identity = elegant novel," 21 June 2019 Along with Hamlet, allusions to Shakespeare's work abound: a fan of the Bard will find traces of Macbeth, Othello, and King Lear, as well as Auden and Dostoyevsky, to name just a few. Liz Matthews, Town & Country, "Ian McEwan's 'Nutshell' is a Modern-Day 'Hamlet'," 28 Sep. 2016 Spokane City Councilmember Kate Burke asked — an allusion to Trump's many unresolved deals and disputes from his decades in business. NBC News, "Why hasn't the Trump campaign paid all its police security bills?," 13 June 2019 Vivian Morris, who’s just flunked out of Vassar, probably doesn’t get her own allusion; Gilbert surely does. David Gates, New York Times, "Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘City of Girls’ Delivers a Love- and Booze-Filled Romp Through 1940s New York," 1 June 2019 Bauer replied first with a string of chin-scratching emojis, then with a facetious allusion to possible malfeasance. Chandler Rome, Houston Chronicle, "Astros respond to cryptic, accusatory tweets by Indians' Trevor Bauer," 1 May 2018 Natalie Mering, is kind of an indie darling who’s known for ethereal, ‘70s-evoking songwriting and literary and cultural allusions. Cady Drell, Marie Claire, "Sound On: The Best Music of April 2019," 1 May 2019 The queenly allusions aren’t just a gimmick, the combs, which are made from zebu horn, a biodegradable material rich in keratin, are especially gentle on black hair. Janelle Okwodu, Vogue, "Byredo’s New Keepsake Combs Pay Tribute to Africa’s Beloved Queens," 13 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'allusion.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of allusion

1542, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for allusion

Late Latin allusion-, allusio, from Latin alludere — see allude

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Statistics for allusion

Last Updated

8 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for allusion

The first known use of allusion was in 1542

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More Definitions for allusion

allusion

noun

English Language Learners Definition of allusion

: a statement that refers to something without mentioning it directly

allusion

noun
al·​lu·​sion | \ ə-ˈlü-zhən How to pronounce allusion (audio) \

Kids Definition of allusion

: a statement that refers to something without mentioning it directly

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appealing forcibly to the mind or reason

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