allusion

noun
al·​lu·​sion | \ ə-ˈlü-zhən \

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 , -​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

Photo: © Charline von Heyl/Petzel, NY Artistic allusions and nods are, however, where Ms. Von Heyl’s unrelenting cleverness starts to feel like a burden. Peter Plagens, WSJ, "‘Charline von Heyl: Snake Eyes’ Review: A Pro in Need of Poetry," 18 Dec. 2018 Miller told Vulture in an interview this month, when discussing his early music and its allusions to hard drugs and the theme of dying young. Alex Abad-santos, Vox, "Rapper Mac Miller is dead at 26," 7 Sep. 2018 Sometimes, those allusions have the reader second guessing. Clea Simon, BostonGlobe.com, "In Jordy Rosenberg’s new novel, it’s a trans, trans, trans, trans world," 22 June 2018 Jim describes autumn sunsets in a passage rich in biblical allusion. Robert Garnett, WSJ, "Rooted in America’s Heartland," 14 Sep. 2018 This was of course an allusion to Hudson’s Nascar success in the 1950s. A.j. Baime, WSJ, "A Green Hornet With Vintage Style," 13 Nov. 2018 Plus, for all the Americanness of Tomasini’s allusions, his designs still ooze Frenchness, and that nation’s specific preference for a tongue-in-cheek attitude to glitzy glamour. Mark Holgate, Vogue, "Emmanuel Tomasini's New Shoe Collection Lets Us Step Into The Eighties," 1 Aug. 2018 Poor plotting What hurts even worse is that Far Cry 5’s inconsistent gameplay is in service of a plot about as gutless as a game with such obvious political allusions can be. Steven Strom, Ars Technica, "Far Cry 5 review: Five steps back," 27 Mar. 2018 Of course, there are naysayers that like to bring up the disturbing Stockholm Syndrome allusions in the 1991 cartoon and its recent adaptation, but the original fairytale that inspired the two recent film adaptations is even more disturbing. Kelly O'sullivan, Country Living, "The Real Story Behind 'Beauty and the Beast' Is Nothing Like the Movie You Love," 30 Mar. 2017

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

4 Feb 2019

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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 \

Kids Definition of allusion

: a statement that refers to something without mentioning it directly

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Comments on allusion

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