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

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 But Lemire and Smallwood’s series had 40 years of Moon Knight comics to serve as a prelude before offering a deconstruction of the character and his various alters. Richard Newby, The Hollywood Reporter, 4 May 2022 The movie opens with footage of Morvich winning, which is used as prelude introducing the movie's fictional horse character, Duke Charles. Maggie Menderski, The Courier-Journal, 20 Apr. 2022 The saber-rattling is viewed in the West partly as a prelude to grey zone operations to intimidate the Finns against joining NATO. Eric Tegler, Forbes, 15 Apr. 2022 In several cities, mass testing has sometimes been a prelude to stringent lockdowns, like the four-week one in Shanghai that has kindled widespread complaints from residents there. New York Times, 24 Apr. 2022 Russia's new attacks in eastern Ukraine are what the Pentagon believes to be a prelude to a major offensive in the Donbas region, a senior U.S. Defense Department official said Tuesday. Laura L. Davis, USA TODAY, 19 Apr. 2022 The launches, which took place on Feb. 26 and March 4, are believed to be a prelude to North Korea testing an intercontinental missile or a nuclear bomb in the coming months. Laura Blasey, Los Angeles Times, 11 Mar. 2022 That was a prelude to the 2018 season, which began with Day serving as acting coach for three games when Urban Meyer was suspended for the Zach Smith saga. Bill Rabinowitz, USA TODAY, 11 Apr. 2022 Some analysts worry that Russia’s exit from the Council of Europe could be a prelude to a reinstatement of the death penalty, a moratorium on which was imposed in 1996 when Russian joined the council. Thomas Grove, WSJ, 17 Mar. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The raucous musical spirit and activist bent of the MC5 was on the agenda at the cozy Detroit venue, as Kramer and his new bandmates kicked off the Heavy Lifting Tour, prelude to a fall album that will be first since 1971 to bear the MC5 name. Brian Mccollum, Detroit Free Press, 6 May 2022 This poem seems positioned as a prolusion — his word — or prelude to set a mood of contemplation, to encourage a softness or stillness, a long view, for entering what follows. Nancy Lord, Anchorage Daily News, 30 Apr. 2022 Some J-Church riders, though, are wary that such a decision could prelude a permanent route change that keeps the line out of the subway. Ricardo Cano, San Francisco Chronicle, 11 Nov. 2021 In a text message, Stivers confirmed that his new job will prelude him from running for Senate. Andrew J. Tobias, cleveland, 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,, 25 Dec. 2020 In his Auburn classroom, Busbin preludes his Civil War unit by spending several days with his students learning about enslavement. al, 1 Mar. 2020 Weather The first half took more than 4 hours and was preluded by a lightning delay. Jake Shapiro, The Denver Post, 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,, 12 July 2018 See More

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.

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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The first known use of prelude was in 1561

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Last Updated

10 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Prelude.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for prelude


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)

More from Merriam-Webster on prelude

Nglish: Translation of prelude for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of prelude for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about prelude


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