il·​lus·​tri·​ous | \ i-ˈlə-strē-əs How to pronounce illustrious (audio) \

Definition of illustrious

1 : notably or brilliantly outstanding because of dignity or achievements or actions : eminent

2 archaic

a : shining brightly with light
b : clearly evident

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Other Words from illustrious

illustriously adverb
illustriousness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for illustrious

famous, renowned, celebrated, noted, notorious, distinguished, eminent, illustrious mean known far and wide. famous implies little more than the fact of being, sometimes briefly, widely and popularly known. a famous actress renowned implies more glory and acclamation. one of the most renowned figures in sports history celebrated implies notice and attention especially in print. the most celebrated beauty of her day noted suggests well-deserved public attention. the noted mystery writer notorious frequently adds to famous an implication of questionableness or evil. a notorious gangster distinguished implies acknowledged excellence or superiority. a distinguished scientist who won the Nobel Prize eminent implies even greater prominence for outstanding quality or character. the country's most eminent writers illustrious stresses enduring honor and glory attached to a deed or person. illustrious war heroes

Did You Know?

Illustrious people seem to light up everything around them. The etymology of illustrious makes it clear that a shining glow (both literal and figurative) has long been associated with the word. "Illustrious" ultimately derives from the Latin verb lustrare, which means "to purify" or "to make bright," and which is related to the noun that gave us "luster." At one time, "illustrious" was used in the literal sense of "shining brightly with light," but that meaning is now considered archaic. The word is now almost exclusively used in its figurative application to describe something that stands out brilliantly, much like a bright star stands out in the sky.

Examples of illustrious in a Sentence

He has had an illustrious military career. an illustrious physicist who is a sure bet for a Nobel Prize

Recent Examples on the Web

There are some surprisingly illustrious names on the walls: Stephen Sondheim, Bernadette Peters, Mary Tyler Moore, and Donald Sutherland, for instance. Toby Zinman,, "Broadway Beat: Here's a summer freebie in NYC for Philly theater buffs to check out," 10 July 2018 The 6-1 thrashing of Argentina in a March friendly confirmed the side’s great moment of form heading towards the World Cup, where illustrious names like Iniesta and Pique will bid farewell to the team. José Luis Sánchez Pando,, "2018 World Cup Group B: An affair of two," 23 May 2018 Incredibly, Close has received seven Oscar nominations throughout her illustrious career. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "Glenn Close Has Never Won an Oscar—But Has Seven Nominations," 23 Feb. 2019 Over the course of his illustrious career, Yves Saint Laurent had many a glamorous patron. Michaela Bechler, Vogue, "Catherine Deneuve Is Feted by Saint Laurent's Anthony Vaccarello With a Dinner in Paris," 22 Jan. 2019 He's sought something different with the Pacers, pointing to the illustrious history of basketball in the state. Andrew Hussey, Indianapolis Star, "Finally on a winner, Kyle O'Quinn embraces new chance with Pacers," 9 July 2018 This weekend, though, the sonic situation at the peer gets a cool upgrade, courtesy of Chi-Soul Fest, the Chicago soul music festival that celebrates the city’s illustrious history of black music. Adam Lukach, RedEye Chicago, "5 things to do this weekend in Chicago," 28 June 2018 Going into this year's tournament, these are the top 10 best moments from the World Cup's illustrious history: 10. Jim Reineking, USA TODAY, "FIFA World Cup: Top 10 best moments in tournament history," 8 June 2018 After flopping in La Liga, Madrid have salvaged their season in style, clinching a third successive Champions League title -- the club's 13th in their illustrious history. Chicago Tribune,, "Bale after Champions League brace: 'I need to play'," 26 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'illustrious.' 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 illustrious

1588, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for illustrious

Latin illustris, probably from illustrare

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Last Updated

1 Apr 2019

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The first known use of illustrious was in 1588

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More Definitions for illustrious



English Language Learners Definition of illustrious

formal : admired and respected very much because a lot was achieved


il·​lus·​tri·​ous | \ i-ˈlə-strē-əs How to pronounce illustrious (audio) \

Kids Definition of illustrious

: admired and respected because of greatness or achievement

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Comments on illustrious

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


to affect and impair by alcohol or a drug

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