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

After their goals in the Serbia game, Xhaka and Shaqiri, who are of Albanian ancestry, made double eagle gestures, an allusion to the Albanian flag. Victor Mather, New York Times, "Switzerland Does Enough to Advance in World Cup," 28 June 2018 For former Obama presidential speechwriter David Litt, those allusions were not enough. Michael Smerconish, Philly.com, "How 2018 commencement speakers talked about Trump without saying his name | Michael Smerconish," 7 June 2018 Some outlets have interpreted these lyrics as an allusion to The Handmaid's Tale and its main character Offred. Matthew Wilson, USA TODAY, "The top 10 pop culture references in Kanye West and Kid Cudi's new album, 'Kids See Ghosts'," 8 June 2018 In lieu of feet, the piece has a tail, an assemblage of lumpen clay, perhaps an allusion to the demonization of the destitute and the displaced. Andrea K. Scott, The New Yorker, "Huma Bhabha’s Postapocalyptic Tableau," 18 May 2018 From Frankenfoods to the Frankenstrat, allusions to Mary Shelley’s novel—published 200 years ago this year—and its many descendants are easy to find in everyday language. Kat Eschner, Smithsonian, "What Frankenstein Can Still Teach Us 200 Years Later," 14 Mar. 2018 And then there are the modern-day toasts themselves, passed from generation to generation, that make frequent allusions to sunlight and fire—key symbols of Zoroastrianism, the pagan belief system held by most pre-Christian Armenians. Benjamin Kemper, Smithsonian, "Raising a Glass to Armenia’s Elaborate Toasting Tradition," 13 July 2018 Notably, all three speakers made negative allusions to Trump. NBC News, "Cultural changes come to the speaker circuit — 'Me Too' is in, politics is out," 27 May 2018 The show's title refers to the props, but there's also that fairytale allusion to vanity. Laura Regensdorf, Vogue, "Ryan McGinley's Latest Nude Series Is an Empowering Riff on Selfie Culture," 4 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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Last Updated

16 Sep 2018

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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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