pre·lude | \ ˈprel-ˌyüd , ˈprāl- ; ˈpre-ˌlüd , ˈprā- ; sense 1 also ˈprē-ˌlüd \

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

Synonyms & Antonyms for prelude

Synonyms: Noun

foreword, intro, introduction, preamble, preface, prologue (also prolog)

Antonyms: Noun

epilogue (also epilog)

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Examples of prelude in a Sentence


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

Indoor performances begin at 7:30, outdoor ones at 8:15; Symphony Park shows start with a prelude concert at 7 p.m. Gates open near SouthPark Mall at 5, and parking there is still free. Lawrence Toppman, charlotteobserver, "Charlotte Symphony’s 2018 Summer Pops starts – inside," 6 June 2018 The features will be a prelude of what’s to come from an Apple AR headset planned for as early as 2020. Time, "Apple's New Software Will Help You Use Your Phone Less Often," 1 June 2018 At its conclusion Babylon Berlin solves the small crime but not the sweeping corruption of humanity for which the small crime is but a sordid prelude; one’s only complaint about the series is that its real drama is always happening off camera. Steve Erickson, Los Angeles Magazine, "HBO’s Fahrenheit 451 Reveals a Blurred Line Between Utopia and Hell," 16 May 2018 But all of that was just a prelude to the final act. Abraham Riesman, Daily Intelligencer, "Can the young activists of IfNotNow change the conversation about Israel and the Palestinians, or will their contradictions hold them back?," 12 July 2018 But that clash was just a prelude to the bigger drama. Chris Foran, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "When Milwaukee's telephone switchboards were a labor battleground," 10 Apr. 2018 The prelude and the piece itself were never performed together while Eastman was alive. Kerry O'brien, Chicago Reader, "The world catches up to iconoclastic composer Julius Eastman," 21 Feb. 2018 The intoxicating thought is that this is just a prelude, an appetizer to what could end up being this city’s longest and must sustainable era of hope. David Murphy,, "Look out, world: a golden age of Philadelphia sports is about to arrive | David Murphy," 2 Feb. 2018 These preliminary spats are just a prelude to the much more momentous upcoming decision on steel. David Dayen, New Republic, "Man of U.S. Steel," 30 Jan. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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 The Saints have got this season's Premier League campaign off to a solid start, with a goalless draw to a gritty West Bromwich Albion preluding their 3-2 victory over West Ham last Saturday., "Southampton Striker Charlie Austin Rejoices in Strong Return to Form Following Long-Term Injury," 21 Aug. 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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Statistics for prelude

Last Updated

13 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for prelude

The first known use of prelude was in 1561

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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 , 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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Comments on prelude

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