al·​lu·​sion | \ ə-ˈlü-zhən How to pronounce allusion (audio) \

Essential Meaning of allusion

: a statement that refers to something without mentioning it directly The lyrics contain biblical allusions. She made allusion to her first marriage.

Full 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

What is the word origin of allusion?

Allusion was borrowed into English in the 16th century. It derives from the Latin verb alludere, meaning "to play with," "to jest," or "to refer to," as does its cousin allude, meaning "to make indirect reference" or "to refer." Alludere, in turn, derives from a combination of the prefix ad- ("to or toward") and ludere ("to play"). Ludere is a Latin word that English speakers have enjoyed playing with over the years, creating collude, delude, elude, and prelude, just to name a few.

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.”

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 Another protester wore a yellow star, an allusion to those worn by Jews under Nazi coercion., 16 Nov. 2021 It’s a winking allusion to the show’s own self-consciously diverse update of Asimov—and exactly the kind of earthbound pigeonholing that limits Black actors in imaginary realms. Julian Lucas, The New Yorker, 1 Nov. 2021 Her pet squirrel, which wears a thin silver chain and nibbles on a hazelnut, is likely featured as an allusion to the squirrel on the Lovell family crest, notes the Getty in a statement. Nora Mcgreevy, Smithsonian Magazine, 21 Oct. 2021 Tsafos’ allusion to classic psychological studies on the five stages of grief skipped a step. Aryn Baker, Time, 25 Oct. 2021 Amanda Gorman, the petite Inaugural poet, also made a patriotic allusion—to the Statue of Liberty. Judith Thurman, The New Yorker, 17 Sep. 2021 The story elements include anti-vaxxers, as well as a subtle allusion to the death of Gabby Petito. Andy Meek, BGR, 16 Oct. 2021 Each Marvel comic is part of a broader web of context, allusion and meaning. Noah Berlatsky, Los Angeles Times, 13 Oct. 2021 Internet search, today’s version of a library search, is an exercise in scholarly connection, of the kind this novel also enjoys—everyone and everything is related by cross-reference and classical allusion and thematic inheritance. James Wood, The New Yorker, 27 Sep. 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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The first known use of allusion was in 1542

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Last Updated

7 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Allusion.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for allusion


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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