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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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 The song starts off strong with an allusion to the king of pop, Michael Jackson. Samantha Olson, Seventeen, 21 May 2021 On my 33rd birthday, friends from hither and yon e-mailed best wishes for my Jesus year, an allusion to Christ's earthly life span. Hamilton Cain Special To The Star Tribune, Star Tribune, 2 Apr. 2021 The former First Lady's remarks were a timely allusion to the recent conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, whose sentencing is scheduled for June 25, for the fatal assault of Floyd in May of 2020. Sabrina Park, Harper's BAZAAR, 11 May 2021 Gone are the days of dictators on the podium, Kalmar said, with no allusion to Topilow. Zachary Lewis, cleveland, 10 May 2021 At this month’s meeting, Mitchell, who is a vocal advocate for public comment, rebuked an animal rights activist for using a George Floyd allusion about the racing industry during public comment time. John Cherwa, Los Angeles Times, 29 Apr. 2021 The company’s name is an allusion to that search, which many have compared to the quest for the Holy Grail. San Diego Union-Tribune, 21 Apr. 2021 Some scholars suspect that the image represents an allusion to the biblical resurrection. Livia Gershon, Smithsonian Magazine, 24 Mar. 2021 Grail’s name is an allusion to this search, which researchers have compared to the quest for the Holy Grail. Mike Freeman, San Diego Union-Tribune, 1 Apr. 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.

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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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Learn More About allusion

Time Traveler for allusion

Time Traveler

The first known use of allusion was in 1542

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Statistics for allusion

Last Updated

12 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Allusion.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/allusion. Accessed 20 Jun. 2021.

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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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