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 Less illustrious mainlanders brought with them habits that offended Hong Kong’s lingering British sensibilities. Barbara Demick, The New York Review of Books, "China’s Clampdown on Hong Kong," 3 Nov. 2020 On Cuomo Prime Time, Taylor defended his use of a pseudonym and his direct lies about his authorship by likening himself to no less illustrious figures than Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison. Grant Addison, Washington Examiner, "Then and Now: Pseudonym," 29 Oct. 2020 During his illustrious career, the slugger knocked 755 home runs, remained an unbroken record for decades. Mike Brest, Washington Examiner, "Baseball legend Hank Aaron dies at 86," 22 Jan. 2021 Golden State’s illustrious, not-so-distant past is fading a bit by the day. Scott Cacciola, New York Times, "The Warriors’ Championship Glow Is Gone. And Yet …," 25 Dec. 2020 Schilling won four World Series championships during his illustrious baseball career to go along with over 3,000 strikeouts and 200 wins. Andrew Mark Miller, Washington Examiner, "Curt Schilling says AIG canceled his insurance policy over pro-Trump social media profile," 14 Jan. 2021 My own arrival follows an illustrious history of invaders since Queen Boudicca ransacked the Roman stonework. Ellen Himelfarb, National Geographic, "Discover the secrets of London’s oldest Roman road," 15 Nov. 2020 Gregory discovered its illustrious history after his father died in 2015, when the son and some friends started work to get the Challenger back on the road. Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press, "Legendary Detroit street racing Dodge Challenger, Duesenberg No. 1 go into history," 5 Nov. 2020 Even with the late start, teams across the state will have a chance to add to the illustrious history of the organization. Jack Marrion, Houston Chronicle, "Katy football seeks history in 100th UIL season," 23 Sep. 2020

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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Time Traveler for illustrious

Time Traveler

The first known use of illustrious was in 1588

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Last Updated

18 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Illustrious.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Feb. 2021.

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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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