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

Kanye West and Kid Cudi's newest collaborative album, Kids See Ghosts, is full of allusions. 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 Garrel directed it after a decade of making experimental features (The Virgin's Bed, The Inner Scar) that abound with cryptic allusions and symbolic imagery. Ben Sachs, Chicago Reader, "L’Enfant Secret is so intimate it feels like a confession," 25 May 2018 Similarly, some of the most insightful allusions to Brexit in fiction refer to it only subliminally, maybe even subconsciously, rather than placing the campaign and its aftermath in the foreground. The Economist, "Brexit is reverberating in British literature," 5 July 2018 Between a vocal cameo by Madonna, a screaming gopher that seems destined for instant meme fame and allusions to significant religious paintings, the video is full of memorable moments. Connor Whittum, Billboard, "Ariana Grande's Epic 'God Is a Woman' Video, Decoded," 13 July 2018 All attempts of imposing unilateral pressure will be reward- less and no one should have allusions in this regard. Fox News, "China retaliates as Trump tariffs go into effect," 7 July 2018 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

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

28 Oct 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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