il·​lus·​trate | \ ˈi-lə-ˌstrāt How to pronounce illustrate (audio) also i-ˈlə- \
illustrated; illustrating

Definition of illustrate

transitive verb

1a : to provide with visual features intended to explain or decorate illustrate a book
b : to make clear by giving or by serving as an example or instance
c : to make clear : clarify
2 : to show clearly : demonstrate
3 obsolete
a : enlighten
b : to light up
4a archaic : to make illustrious
b obsolete
(1) : to make bright
(2) : adorn

intransitive verb

: to give an example or instance

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Other Words from illustrate

illustrator \ ˈi-​lə-​ˌstrā-​tər How to pronounce illustrate (audio) also  i-​ˈlə-​ \ noun

Synonyms for illustrate


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Examples of illustrate in a Sentence

He illustrated his lecture with stories of his own experiences in the field. Please give a few examples to illustrate your point. The results illustrate how important it is to wear your seatbelt. The students will write and illustrate their own stories.
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Recent Examples on the Web The project invites photographers from across India to submit images that illustrate the impact of garbage on nation’s wild species. Cara Tejpal, Quartz India, "In photos: India’s diverse wildlife is drowning and dying in human filth," 18 Feb. 2021 These are some numbers that illustrate how far the program has come in Dan Hurley’s tenure, and the final hurdles that need to be cleared for the lull to be over: UConn freshmen who have scored 300 or more points. Dom Amore,, "UConn men by the numbers: 3 seniors to bridge coaching eras, a 5-game winning streak resumes, and an 8-year NBA lottery drought persists," 20 Nov. 2020 The portraits that illustrate your stories and experiences of lockdown have shown just how much communities have come together during this difficult year. Emily Dixon, Marie Claire, "Kate Middleton Rewore a Zara Blazer for a Royal Video Address," 17 Nov. 2020 There are already examples that can illustrate the potential damage. Beth Burger, USA TODAY, "Trump's EPA rewrote the rules on air, water energy. Now voters face a choice on climate change issues," 31 Oct. 2020 And to the moments that illustrate the Stars' roster depth, such as when Joel Kiviranta scored a hat trick in Game 7 of the second round. Callie Caplan, Dallas News, "Ready to ‘pass the torch,' the Stars' 1999 Stanley Cup champions reflect on Dallas' current playoff run," 18 Sep. 2020 Fonseca ties each one into recurring motifs that illustrate his interpretation of perception and reality, faith and irony, tragedy and farce. Joan Gaylord, The Christian Science Monitor, "‘Natural History’ is a beautiful, challenging puzzle," 31 Aug. 2020 As if to illustrate the point, in Chicago, Ma once participated in an elevated public discussion on music and civic life. Jeremy Eichler,, "Music’s first responder: How Yo-Yo Ma answered the pandemic’s call and consoled a reeling nation," 27 Jan. 2021 The story includes 2 graphics that illustrate the pre-ordering landscape. Robin Lloyd, Scientific American, "Coronavirus News Roundup, November 28-December 4," 4 Dec. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'illustrate.' 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 illustrate

1526, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 3

History and Etymology for illustrate

Latin illustratus, past participle of illustrare, from in- + lustrare to purify, make bright — more at luster

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Time Traveler for illustrate

Time Traveler

The first known use of illustrate was in 1526

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Statistics for illustrate

Last Updated

27 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Illustrate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for illustrate



English Language Learners Definition of illustrate

: to give examples in order to make (something) easier to understand
: to be proof or evidence of (something)
: to explain or decorate a story, book, etc., with pictures


il·​lus·​trate | \ ˈi-lə-ˌstrāt How to pronounce illustrate (audio) \
illustrated; illustrating

Kids Definition of illustrate

1 : to supply with pictures or diagrams meant to explain or decorate illustrate a book
2 : to make clear by using examples She illustrated her point with stories.
3 : to serve as an example The results illustrate the need for planning.

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Comments on illustrate

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