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

Synonyms for illustrate


demonstrate, exemplify, instance

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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

To illustrate the complex nature of our relationship with work, Touroni describes an imaginary client. Cassie Werber, Quartz at Work, "A psychotherapist explains how to deal with the symptoms of burnout," 14 June 2019 She is played by Felicity Huffman in the series, who illustrates Fairstein's key role in coercing the false confession from the boys that led to their wrongful conviction. Kathryn Lindsay,, "Linda Fairstein Dropped By Book Publisher Following Netflix's When They See Us," 10 June 2019 Maida studied fashion illustration at Pratt and was soon illustrating scarves and designing jewelry. Alex Beggs, Bon Appétit, "The Long and Happy Life of Maida Heatter," 7 June 2019 Harris used some of the same or similar descriptors to illustrate her feelings: Light. Alicia Delgallo, Pro Soccer USA, "Ali Krieger, Ashlyn Harris set boundaries to succeed as World Cup teammates, engaged couple," 5 June 2019 To that end, both a convertible NSX and a track-ready NSX Type R (illustrated above) might be in the cards, according to a report in Autocar. Joey Capparella, Car and Driver, "Acura NSX May Add a 650-HP Type R Model and a Convertible Variant," 28 May 2019 The image below shows differences in plants’ functions, which, the team suggests in a recent Nature Ecology & Evolution paper, could be a way to illustrate and track biodiversity. Lacy Schley, Discover Magazine, "A Spectrometer Paints Plants in a New Light," 1 Jan. 2019 As well as being sealed with the Great Seal of the Realm, the Instrument of Consent is illustrated with a design specifically meant to honor Markle and Prince Harry. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Queen Just Signed the Instrument of Consent for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's Wedding," 13 May 2018 The moves illustrate that, even as his annual spending plans seek draconian reductions in many areas, Trump is uncomfortable as a budget cutter and readily backtracks when popular programs are at stake. John Flesher, The Seattle Times, "Trump backtracks on call to gut $300M Great Lakes program," 30 Mar. 2019

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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Statistics for illustrate

Last Updated

21 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for illustrate

The first known use of illustrate was in 1526

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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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