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 Sale is now scheduled to throw another live batting practice session on Thursday — this time, with two 15-pitch intervals — as a potential prelude to the start of his six-game preparation for a mid-April activation. Alex Speier,, "Chris Sale throws 15 pitches in live batting practice," 1 Mar. 2020 The tidier, tastier prelude to a pizza is a salad of shredded Brussels sprouts tossed with some real zingers — blue cheese and pickled red onion — but also sliced Asian pear and a miso dressing. Tom Sietsema, Washington Post, "Emmy Squared finds diners opening wide for Detroit-style pizza," 31 Jan. 2020 Oil Relief As a net oil importer, Turkey is getting a measure of relief from the collapse in commodity prices, with the central bank last week lowering this year’s inflation forecast in a likely prelude to additional interest-rate cuts. Taylan Bilgic,, "Turkish Economy Hits Grim Milestones That Show Pandemic Toll," 5 May 2020 Students at the University of Nanterre in suburban Paris occupied the school’s administration building in a prelude to massive protests in France that began the following May. The first Red Lobster restaurant opened in Lakeland, Fla., "This day in history," 22 Mar. 2020 This is, however, just a prelude to the real fight. Nr Editors, National Review, "The Week," 9 Jan. 2020 Becerra also ordered the preservation of all communications with donors and other records — a possible prelude to charges. David W. Chen, New York Times, "A Tennis Coach Was Abusing Minors. Should the Sport’s Federation Have Known?," 4 Apr. 2020 Today is Veterans Day Fort Sam’s annual Veterans Day ceremony starts with a musical prelude at 9:30 a.m. U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio, will give the opening remarks, and retired Air Force Lt. Sig Christenson,, "At 101, San Antonio veteran can’t forget waves of bombers over Pacific," 11 Nov. 2019 Several young men were pushing it away, a prelude to setting it on fire. Joanna Slaterand Niha Masih,, "In Delhi’s worst violence in decades, a man watched his brother burn," 6 Mar. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb 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 The 6-3 vote for the contract exposed the ongoing riff between the board that was temporarily patched on March 5 when the board voted unanimously to hire Brumley, despite the contentious debate that preluded the approval. Littice Bacon-blood,, "New Jefferson schools superintendent $269,000 salary approved," 13 Mar. 2018 Such steps are typically preludes to a board fight, which Elliott has until March to launch for Hess’s 2018 annual meeting. David Benoit And Bradley Olson, WSJ, "Elliott Preps for Potential Fight With Hess, Seeking CEO Ouster," 14 Dec. 2017

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

23 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Prelude.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for prelude


How to pronounce prelude (audio) How to pronounce prelude (audio)

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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