il·​lu·​sion | \i-ˈlü-zhən \

Definition of illusion 

1a(1) : a misleading image presented to the vision

(2) : something that deceives or misleads intellectually

b(1) : perception of something objectively existing in such a way as to cause misinterpretation of its actual nature

(2) : hallucination sense 1

(3) : a pattern capable of reversible perspective

2a(1) : the state or fact of being intellectually deceived or misled : misapprehension

(2) : an instance of such deception

b obsolete : the action of deceiving

3 : a fine plain transparent bobbinet or tulle usually made of silk and used for veils, trimmings, and dresses

Illustration of illusion

Illustration of illusion

illusion 1a(1): a and b are equal in length

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from illusion

illusional \i-​ˈlüzh-​nəl, -​ˈlü-​zhə-​nᵊl \ adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for illusion

delusion, illusion, hallucination, mirage mean something that is believed to be true or real but that is actually false or unreal. delusion implies an inability to distinguish between what is real and what only seems to be real, often as the result of a disordered state of mind. delusions of persecution illusion implies a false ascribing of reality based on what one sees or imagines. an illusion of safety hallucination implies impressions that are the product of disordered senses, as because of mental illness or drugs. suffered from terrifying hallucinations mirage in its extended sense applies to an illusory vision, dream, hope, or aim. claimed a balanced budget is a mirage

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 illusion in a Sentence

The video game is designed to give the illusion that you are in control of an airplane. They used paint to create the illusion of metal. She says that all progress is just an illusion.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

Obviously, for a film like Forrest Gump or the Hitchcock TV episode, there is a film editor employing various perceptual tricks to give the illusion of transitioning between scenes. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "What watching Forrest Gump tells us about how we store memories," 18 Oct. 2018 Along with these popular pins, the Pinterest Report also detailed an interest in users to create nails that look stitched like Frankenstein, eyeliner that gives the illusion of spider webs, and nails that look bewitching. Lauren Rearick, Teen Vogue, "The Most Popular Pinterest Halloween 2018 Beauty Searches," 27 Sep. 2018 This is a colorists' trick — make the hair lightest at the front to give an illusion of all-over blonde. Leah Prinzivalli, Allure, "Miranda Kerr Got Face-Framing Highlights Straight Out of 2001," 21 Sep. 2018 Nineteen parties had competed against Hun Sen's CPP, but almost all were vanity vehicles or groups serving as window-dressing to give the illusion of democratic choice. Sopheng Cheang, Fox News, "Cambodian election results give ruling party sweep of seats," 15 Aug. 2018 The deep pain of the housing collapse and the financial meltdown, of course, quickly cured us of any such illusions. Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press, "How can Fed make investors uncertain? U-M professor says it's obvious," 22 June 2018 Yet the shattering of the illusion that Westworld is the center of action is the true legacy of this episode. Sandra Upson, WIRED, "Westworld Recap, Season 2 Episode 8: The Great Ghost Nation Mystery," 11 June 2018 These sorts of sensory illusions are a common genre of online media, from the famous blue/gold dress to the picture of Reese Witherspoon with three legs. An Xiao Mina, The Atlantic, "That Merkel Photo Is More Like a Meme Than a Renaissance Painting," 11 June 2018 And on the nose, Buckle notes that a bit of highlighter on the tip gives the illusion of a more lifted appearance. Lindy Segal,, "Can Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles Do Her Own Tour Makeup? Watch Kristofer Buckle Teach Her How," 31 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'illusion.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of illusion

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2b

History and Etymology for illusion

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin illusion-, illusio, from Latin, action of mocking, from illudere to mock at, from in- + ludere to play, mock — more at ludicrous

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about illusion

Dictionary Entries near illusion








Statistics for illusion

Last Updated

14 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for illusion

The first known use of illusion was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for illusion



English Language Learners Definition of illusion

: something that looks or seems different from what it is : something that is false or not real but that seems to be true or real

: an incorrect idea : an idea that is based on something that is not true


il·​lu·​sion | \i-ˈlü-zhən \

Kids Definition of illusion

1 : something that is false or unreal but seems to be true or real The video game creates the illusion of flying.

2 : a mistaken idea She had no illusions about her chances of winning.


il·​lu·​sion | \il-ˈü-zhən \

Medical Definition of illusion 

1 : a misleading image presented as a visual stimulus

2a : perception of something objectively existing in such a way as to cause misinterpretation of its actual nature especially : optical illusion — compare delusion sense 2

b : hallucination sense 1

c : a pattern capable of reversible perspective

Other Words from illusion

illusional \-​ˈüzh-​nəl, -​ən-​ᵊl \ adjective

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on illusion

What made you want to look up illusion? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a soft lustrous wool fabric with mohair

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!