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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web Each treatment room with its different motif is an allusion to Christian Dior ‘s life. Cécilia Pelloux, Forbes, 3 Sep. 2021 And in the film’s most direct allusion to violent reality, after Ben fights off all the zombies and emerges as the only survivor, he is killed in the final scene by local police, who throw his body on a bonfire like so much trash. Carvell Wallace, The Atlantic, 27 Aug. 2021 Their allusion to the night refers not to gloom but to evening intimacies, the pianist and scholar Kenneth Hamilton said in an interview. New York Times, 13 Aug. 2021 For those not in the know, this is an allusion to Deer Woman, a supernatural figure that appears in scary stories told by several tribes. Kali Simmons, Vulture, 10 Aug. 2021 In this allusion, the two central themes of the novel collide: the dangers of the failure of human hospitality and those of an increasingly inhospitable climate. Lucy Scholes, The New York Review of Books, 3 Aug. 2021 Crawford said this decision was an allusion to colonization, a theme in the show. Mary Elizabeth Andriotis, House Beautiful, 16 Aug. 2021 In addition to the passionate embrace, there is a subtler allusion there, too: the man’s large hand melds with the arm of the boy. New York Times, 13 Jan. 2021 The Widow who dies freeing Yelena from mind control is named Oksana (Michelle Lee), which might be a vague allusion to a couple of comics characters from Black Widow’s history. James Grebey, Vulture, 14 July 2021

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About allusion

Time Traveler for allusion

Time Traveler

The first known use of allusion was in 1542

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About allusion

Dictionary Entries Near allusion




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for allusion

Last Updated

16 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Allusion.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Sep. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for allusion



English Language Learners Definition of allusion

: a statement that refers to something without mentioning it directly


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


Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Spelling Words Quiz

  • alphabet pasta spelling help
  • Which is the correct spelling?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!