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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Other Words from allusion

allusive \ ə-​ˈlü-​siv How to pronounce allusive (audio) , -​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 During an interview after a match last weekend, Ng appeared on a livestream wearing goggles and a gas mask — an allusion to months of protests in Hong Kong, where demonstrators have taken to the streets wearing similar gear. Jessie Yeung, CNN, "Esports player banned from tournament after calling for Hong Kong 'revolution'," 8 Oct. 2019 Popovich's patriotic framing, and his glancing allusion to the current political climate, were reminders that the first USA Basketball team of the Donald Trump era will be led by two vocal critics of the president. Ben Golliver, courant.com, "Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr, two vocal Trump critics, hope Team USA is a ‘unifying’ force," 6 Aug. 2019 Despite its sombre allusions to the tea trade as a vehicle of global injustice, the exhibition delights the senses. B.t., The Economist, "The ambivalent history of the Camellia sinensis leaf," 10 July 2019 Tilt, which followed 1984’s Climate of Hunter, was a desolate and experimental album, dense with literary allusions. Al Shipley, Billboard, "Worth the Wait: The 10 Best Albums That Fans Waited Over a Decade For," 29 Aug. 2019 His speeches are often laced with allusions to classical civilizations, black humor and ribald innuendo. Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY, "Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson is like Trump. Only he isn't.," 23 July 2019 Part of the reason for the allusion to future pain could be that the department and other agencies across Louisville Metro Government are waiting to see how things pan out with the next city budget. Darcy Costello, The Courier-Journal, "Louisville Metro Police reorganization leaves lingering questions amid chief's warning," 22 Oct. 2019 That was an allusion to an incident this year in which a local Freedom Party official published a poem comparing migrants with rats, and various other incidents involving party members. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Kurz favored to return as chancellor in Austria election," 26 Sep. 2019 The only allusion to romance between the two in the entire series was a throwaway moment in season one when Gideon gives Reid football tickets, and Reid asks JJ to go with him on what sounds awfully like a date. Jenny Hollander, Marie Claire, "Will JJ & Reid Finally Get Together In Criminal Minds Season 15?," 18 Sep. 2019

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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Time Traveler for allusion

Time Traveler

The first known use of allusion was in 1542

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Statistics for allusion

Last Updated

9 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Allusion.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/allusions. Accessed 14 December 2019.

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More Definitions for allusion

allusion

noun
How to pronounce allusion (audio)

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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