il·lus·trate | \ ˈi-lə-ˌstrāt 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 alsoi-ˈlə- \ noun

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

But the oddity of her Reform Party victory illustrates the pull and occasional power of New York’s third parties — entities like the Women’s Equality Party and the influential Working Families Party. Lisa W. Foderaro, New York Times, "Ocasio-Cortez Highlights How Third-Party Quirks Can Muddle Elections," 11 July 2018 But the modest impacts of those developments on traffic so far illustrate that the long-running feud between Boise and Ada County over them is just one part of the growth game. Maria L. La Ganga, idahostatesman, "Stuck in traffic jams, asking who's to blame? The answer depends on who you ask.," 9 July 2018 That illustrates not only how close games were, but that teams, once ahead, are increasingly able to protect their leads. John Leicester,, "Is this the best-ever World Cup?," 29 June 2018 But his departure illustrated a broader, serious challenge for luxury fashion: How do historic houses stay relevant and innovative? Elizabeth Raiss,, "Why Do We Treat A Fashion Designer Leaving A Brand Like Someone Dying?," 14 June 2018 But Farber illustrates a far more disturbing reality: the legacy of colonialism extends its toxic tendrils so deeply into every social structure that it can't be excised by legislative decree. Justin Hayford, Chicago Reader, "Mies Julie depicts a postapartheid South Africa still mired in its legacy of colonialism and racism," 6 June 2018 But the immediate reaction illustrated that expectations for change are high. Tim Hepher And Jamie Freed, The Christian Science Monitor, "Qatar Airways emphasizes commitment to gender parity after sexist comments," 6 June 2018 But Tuesday illustrated Wentz’s competitiveness and sent a message to teammates and observers alike that Wentz is the Eagles’ quarterback and his health is improving. Zach Berman,, "Thoughts on busy start of Eagles' OTAs | Early Birds," 23 May 2018 But the first two games of the series against the Phillies illustrated what makes the Braves go these days. Jorge L. Ortiz, USA TODAY, "'Future is now' for Braves thanks to historic young duo of Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuña Jr.," 23 May 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.

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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

13 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for illustrate

The first known use of illustrate was in 1526

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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 \
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

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


alleviating pain or harshness

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