pre·​lude | \ ˈprel-ˌyüd How to pronounce prelude (audio) , ˈprāl-; ˈpre-ˌlüd, ˈprā-; sense 1 also ˈprē-ˌlüd How to pronounce prelude (audio) \

Definition of prelude

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : an introductory performance, action, or event preceding and preparing for the principal or a more important matter
2a : a musical section or movement introducing the theme or chief subject (as of a fugue or suite) or serving as an introduction to an opera or oratorio
b : an opening voluntary
c : a separate concert piece usually for piano or orchestra and based entirely on a short motif


preluded; preluding

Definition of prelude (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to serve as a prelude to
2 : to play as a prelude

intransitive verb

: to give or serve as a prelude especially : to play a musical introduction

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Other Words from prelude


preluder noun

Examples of prelude in a Sentence

Noun an eruption of sectarian violence that proved to be the prelude to all-out civil war the musical had a brief prelude to get the audience in the proper mood
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Biden's meeting of 40 leaders was a prelude to the that gathering, which will include all 193 United Nations member states. Jeffrey Sachs, CNN, "Biden's remarkable success on climate," 23 Apr. 2021 Thompson says that the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville was a prelude to the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. oregonlive, "‘American Insurrection’ on PBS Tuesday night explores the rise of right-wing extremism," 13 Apr. 2021 Faithful viewers know that the opening sequence is but the prelude of an hour of horticultural theater or, more precisely, therapy. Washington Post, "Britain’s ‘Gardeners’ World’ is the pandemic escape we didn’t know we needed," 7 Apr. 2021 But the structure of DNA, too, was merely a prelude to our understanding of life. New York Times, "What Does It Mean to Be a Living Thing?," 24 Mar. 2021 The public jousting over pandemic pay and protocols last year was an ugly, unplanned prelude to the main event – the CBA’s expiration in December. Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY, "From new(ish)-look Dodgers to star shortstops, four things to watch for as MLB spring training gets underway," 16 Feb. 2021 These were promising initial moves, signaling that the meeting in Alaska was not the prelude to a Munich-like policy of appeasement toward Beijing. Lindsey Neas, National Review, "Grading the Biden Administration’s Approach on China So Far," 11 Apr. 2021 Last year, the state Assembly approved a resolution calling for a delay in the next major contract as a prelude to shifting some of the Central Valley funds to Southern California and the Bay Area. Ralph Vartabedian, Los Angeles Times, "Bullet train contractor warns of further two-year delay as state struggles to secure land," 29 Mar. 2021 More than 70 awards were handed out during the afternoon ceremony, which served as a prelude to the Grammys broadcast at 7 p.m. CT on CBS. Mary Colurso |, al, "Grammys 2021: Alabama’s Brittany Howard wins for Best Rock Song," 14 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb In a text message, Stivers confirmed that his new job will prelude him from running for Senate. Andrew J. Tobias, cleveland, "Rep. Steve Stivers resigning to take Ohio Chamber of Commerce’s top job," 19 Apr. 2021 Igbani and prisoner advocates have urged the prison agency to hold an education campaign to prelude the vaccination. Jolie Mccullough Jolie Mccullough,, "Texas hasn’t said when or how inmates will receive the coronavirus vaccine," 25 Dec. 2020 In his Auburn classroom, Busbin preludes his Civil War unit by spending several days with his students learning about enslavement. al, "Alabama’s black history runs deep, but some students skim the surface," 1 Mar. 2020 Weather The first half took more than 4 hours and was preluded by a lightning delay. Jake Shapiro, The Denver Post, "The Colorado Rapids were delayed 222 minutes: 5 things we learned from a wet loss to New England," 5 July 2019 In a move that was expected and could prelude further transactions, the Bulls on Thursday announced the team waived guard Sean Kilpatrick. Malika Andrews,, "Bulls waive guard Sean Kilpatick," 12 July 2018 Wildfires raged on two ends of California Saturday, killing one person, destroying scores of homes and reminding residents of last year’s historic destruction, if not preluding a repeat. Avi Selk, Washington Post, "One dead as wildfires burn on both ends of California," 7 July 2018 Stephen Loveridge’s documentary, Matangi/Maya/M.I.A., appears to start filling in that script, preluding the Grammys performance with footage of the rapper and producer’s breezy home life in Los Angeles. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "Listening to M.I.A., Finally," 30 Mar. 2018 Italy, meanwhile, have not secured a victory since October, where their 1-0 win over Albania preluded Gli Azzurri's World Cup play-off defeat at the hands of Sweden the following month., "England vs Italy Preview: Recent Form, Team News, Prediction & More," 26 Mar. 2018

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


1561, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1632, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

History and Etymology for prelude


Middle French, from Medieval Latin praeludium, from Latin praeludere to play beforehand, from prae- + ludere to play — more at ludicrous

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Time Traveler for prelude

Time Traveler

The first known use of prelude was in 1561

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Statistics for prelude

Last Updated

28 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Prelude.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for prelude



English Language Learners Definition of prelude

: something that comes before and leads to something else
: a short piece of music that introduces a longer piece


pre·​lude | \ ˈprel-ˌyüd How to pronounce prelude (audio) , ˈprā-ˌlüd \

Kids Definition of prelude

1 : something that comes before and prepares for the main or more important parts
2 : a short piece of music played at the beginning of something (as an opera or church service)

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