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

Though a staggering 25 songs long, Scorpion could be a mere prelude, a stopping point, before a greater epiphany. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "Why Drake Can’t Pull Off Being the ‘Good Guy’," 5 July 2018 The company has also been under fire for its failure to prevent Russian trolls from buying online ads and showing propaganda in prelude to the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Jonathan Vanian, Fortune, "These Are Facebook's Latest Plans to Make Online Ads 'More Transparent'," 28 June 2018 Sounds like an ideal prelude to July 4th, and the perfect way to ring in the long days of summer. Michaela Bechler, Vogue, "How to Throw a Scandinavian Midsummer Celebration," 22 June 2018 In prelude to trade war, U.S. details tariffs on $50 billion... David Garrick,, "Politics & Government," 16 June 2018 The shake-up could be a sign that Trump would refuse to submit to an interview with Mueller's team or fight a grand jury subpoena, a possible prelude to a constitutional battle., "Today: All the President's Lawyers," 3 May 2018 Prince Mohammed was widely seen as an ambitious protégé of the Emirati rulers, and in an email to the Emirati ambassador, Mr. Barrack presented a Manafort meeting as a prelude to a meeting with Mr. Trump. David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, "Who Is Behind Trump’s Links to Arab Princes? A Billionaire Friend," 13 June 2018 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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 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

8 Nov 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

What made you want to look up prelude? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


playful or foolish behavior

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