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 \ -​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

Bauer replied first with a string of chin-scratching emojis, then with a facetious allusion to possible malfeasance. Chandler Rome, Houston Chronicle, "Astros respond to cryptic, accusatory tweets by Indians' Trevor Bauer," 1 May 2018 Natalie Mering, is kind of an indie darling who’s known for ethereal, ‘70s-evoking songwriting and literary and cultural allusions. Cady Drell, Marie Claire, "Sound On: The Best Music of April 2019," 1 May 2019 The queenly allusions aren’t just a gimmick, the combs, which are made from zebu horn, a biodegradable material rich in keratin, are especially gentle on black hair. Janelle Okwodu, Vogue, "Byredo’s New Keepsake Combs Pay Tribute to Africa’s Beloved Queens," 13 July 2018 The visual and musical allusions are eclectic enough that nobody is likely to feel left out, and everybody is likely to feel a little lost from time to time. A. O. Scott, New York Times, "Review: In ‘Ready Player One,’ Spielberg Plays the Nostalgia Game," 28 Mar. 2018 But that's not the only allusion to Miley’s past in the video. Sara Delgado, Teen Vogue, "Miley Cyrus's "Nothing Breaks Like a Heart" Music Video Has a Secret "Hannah Montana" Reference," 30 Nov. 2018 Lose the unnecessary allusions to the combustion past. Popular Mechanics Editors, Popular Mechanics, "In Defense of Elon Musk," 16 Oct. 2018 The question is whether today’s crop of English majors will spot the allusion. Sam Sacks, WSJ, "Fiction: A Pilgrim Without a Map," 9 Aug. 2018 The only allusions to the building’s dark past are embedded deep within the restaurant’s extensive cocktail menu, where tipplers in the know might notice the B Sample — tequila, sambuca and Tabasco sauce. New York Times, "The Infamous Sochi Drug-Testing Lab Is Now a Gastro Pub," 19 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

27 May 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 How to pronounce allusion (audio) \

Kids Definition of allusion

: a statement that refers to something without mentioning it directly

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