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
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

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 importance of arrivals from nearby countries, Eurostat figures show that French overnight stays in Italy hit 14 million last year, while those from Germany came in at 13.6 million, edging Italians themselves at 13.5 million. Fox News, "Italy to open borders after three months of severe coronavirus lockdown," 16 May 2020 Survivor’s first episode aired two years after the release of The Truman Show, a film that neatly illustrates the anxieties that would attend the age of reality TV. Megan Garber, The Atlantic, "The Paranoid Style in American Entertainment," 14 May 2020 Here are four charts that illustrate what’s happening. Alex Longley,, "Three Oil Charts Paint Dire Picture of Ballooning Glut," 10 May 2020 Japan’s early modern period of urbanization and intellectual cultivation was a period of relative peace and prosperity, which led, in turn, to the rich and vibrant art world that illustrated a culture’s song of itself. Tamar Avishai, The New York Review of Books, "Art in Isolation: The Delicate Paintings of Edo Japan," 9 May 2020 Express-News photographers have won first-place honors in the Best of the West journalism competition for pictures that powerfully illustrated the plight of child migrants. Marc Duvoisin,, "Express-News photographers honored for pictures of child migrants described as moving ‘beyond words’," 6 May 2020 New characters are introduced this season that could illustrate a chapter in the TV-cliches-to-avoid handbook. Bill Goodykoontz, azcentral, "How Christina Applegate saves season 2 of Netflix series 'Dead to Me,' returning May 8," 4 May 2020 Stocks slumped Friday, after U.S. markets slipped on spending and unemployment data that illustrated the reach of the coronavirus pandemic. Stuart Condie, WSJ, "Global Stocks Sink as Pandemic's Damage Starts to Show in Gloomy Data," 1 May 2020 But there’s nothing mystical about it, and this project does a great job illustrating the basic science behind those dreary drizzles, refreshing summer storms, and torrential downpours. John Kennedy, Popular Science, "Stay-at-home science project: Whip up a storm in a glass," 27 Apr. 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

23 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Illustrate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for illustrate


How to pronounce illustrate (audio)

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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