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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from illustrate

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

Synonyms for illustrate


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 Few places illustrate those two Russias like Kaliningrad, a Russian territory cut off from the mainland and sandwiched between European Union nations Poland and Lithuania. Thomas Grove, WSJ, "In Putin’s Standoff With Navalny, Many Russians Put Faith in President," 20 Apr. 2021 These numbers only represent a small law enforcement segment and do not illustrate the hundreds of thousands of officers who work in over 18,000 police departments nationwide. Maia Niguel Hoskin, Forbes, "What The Derek Chauvin Trial Verdict Might Mean For The Black Community And How Workplaces Can Begin Preparing For Either Outcome," 19 Apr. 2021 Buildings covered in the book predate 1800 and illustrate the city’s earliest history., "Kingston library to host program on new JFK biography," 16 Apr. 2021 Instead, Epplin profiles four characters — Bob Feller, Satchel Paige, Larry Doby and Bill Veeck — who illustrate the forces that helped drive baseball into its modern age. Washington Post, "In Cleveland, four men helped bring baseball into the modern age," 9 Apr. 2021 The more closely studied areas illustrate the harm human activity can cause. NBC News, "Shrinking sea meadows add to carbon emission concerns," 8 Apr. 2021 Some propose linking events such as NCAA championships and U.S. national championships or Olympic trials to create more visibility and better illustrate the clear connection between the two levels. Eddie Pells, Star Tribune, "Olympic gold: Colleges, Team USA search for new ways to win," 6 Apr. 2021 Vitale is referencing Mayer and Flagler, both of whom played well against Houston and illustrate the Bears' potency from their backcourt. Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY, "NCAA men's national championship: Five reasons Baylor will ruin Gonzaga's perfect season," 5 Apr. 2021 The documents provide an unusual glimpse into the inner workings of a group whose activities are ordinarily veiled and illustrate how the Republican Party, still largely defined by Trump, is straining to connect with the country’s political center. Isaac Stanley-becker, Anchorage Daily News, "Inside a stealth ‘persuasion machine’ promising Republican victories in 2022," 4 Apr. 2021

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

Time Traveler for illustrate

Time Traveler

The first known use of illustrate was in 1526

See more words from the same year

Statistics for illustrate

Last Updated

28 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Illustrate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 May. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Star Wars Words Quiz

  • cu jedi training
  • The bounty portion of bounty hunters (such as Boba Fett) comes from a Latin word meaning
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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