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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from illustrate

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

Synonyms for illustrate


demonstrate, exemplify, instance

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

The photos provided by the Russian Ministry of Defense illustrate a military bromance. Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica, "Russia, China become battle buddies at Vostok 2018," 16 Sep. 2018 The two dates illustrate Morales’ penchant for attracting public attention, both welcome and unwelcome. Jon Lender,, "Jon Lender: Democrat Who Owes State $29,381 Seeks Election To Legislature," 30 June 2018 The different fortunes of Bloom Elementary in the Highlands and Byck Elementary in the West End vividly illustrate the criticism. Mandy Mclaren, The Courier-Journal, "Black JCPS students tend to get novice teachers, analysis confirms," 23 June 2018 Though somewhat out of date, combat stilettos illustrate the weaponization of the feminine, as opposed to the outright removal of it by ditching the shoes altogether. April Wolfe,, "The tortured history of action-film heroines and their high heels ('Jurassic World,' anyone?)," 22 June 2018 The slides below illustrate the companies' changes over time, along with how most people begin their product searches on Amazon. Jason Abbruzzese, NBC News, "Mary Meeker: Google becoming an ecommerce company, Amazon becoming a search ads company," 30 May 2018 The neighborhood or micro hospitals also illustrate the vigorous competition among health systems for new markets. Guy Boulton, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Froedtert Health to build a 'neighborhood' hospital in Mequon," 25 May 2018 The case of one of those—financial conglomerate China Minsheng Investment—illustrates how tricky investing in Chinese bonds can be. Jacky Wong, WSJ, "A Painful New Year for Chinese Bonds," 12 Feb. 2019 Deolloz brought Curbed around town during Austin City Limits, one of the many festivals that temporarily reconfigure Austin’s downtown—and illustrate how inefficient cars are for moving through busy streets. Alissa Walker, Curbed, "How bike advocate Katie Deolloz gets around Austin," 19 Oct. 2018

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about illustrate

Statistics for illustrate

Last Updated

12 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for illustrate

The first known use of illustrate was in 1526

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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.

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on illustrate

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


likely to have or produce good results

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Latin Quiz

  • roman forum
  • Which of the following months comes from a Latin word for “ten”?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


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!