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pre·​lude ˈprel-ˌyüd How to pronounce prelude (audio)
sense 1 also
ˈprē-ˌlüd How to pronounce prelude (audio)
: an introductory performance, action, or event preceding and preparing for the principal or a more important matter
: 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
: an opening voluntary
: a separate concert piece usually for piano or orchestra and based entirely on a short motif


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preluded; preluding

transitive verb

: to serve as a prelude to
: to play as a prelude

intransitive verb

: to give or serve as a prelude
especially : to play a musical introduction
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
On Twitter, aka X, there was little discussion of possible explanations — Gilead has a facility in Edmonton, perhaps someone wanted to catch an Oilers game — other than this being a definite prelude to a deal. Damian Garde, STAT, 22 Nov. 2023 Twenty-five, in retrospect, was a touchingly small number—a gesture rather than a plan, a prelude to a dream rather than a dream realized. Yiyun Li, The New Yorker, 23 Oct. 2023 Lewis said this was possibly a prelude to the lawsuit. Borys Kit, The Hollywood Reporter, 24 Aug. 2023 In fact, if past is prelude, the Iranian leadership likely views this war as an opportunity to achieve multiple objectives. Mohammad Ayatollahi Tabaar, Foreign Affairs, 1 Nov. 2023 Deshon’s birthday usually is also the prelude to a wave of joyous family holidays – none of which will be the same again. Holly Yan, CNN, 27 Oct. 2023 In what’s often a prelude to a broader restructuring, the builder also hired advisers to review its capital structure and form a holistic solution after making last-minute bond interest payments last month. Bloomberg, Fortune, 18 Oct. 2023 Israel’s initial response was a complete siege on Gaza (which includes cutting off all electricity, water, food and fuel supplies), airstrikes, and the mobilization of some 300,000 reservists in what many regard as a prelude to a wider ground invasion. Yasmeen Serhan, TIME, 14 Oct. 2023 Amazon The whole of the history of civilization was a prelude, a mere warm-up, to the moment mankind invented Flamin' Hot Cheetos. Nena Farrell, WIRED, 11 Oct. 2023
That, and the numerous MCU movies prior, was merely prelude to a monumental brawl against Thanos for all the marbles that may never be surpassed in sheer epicness. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, 20 Aug. 2013 At a first Chicago appearance in seven years, and prelude to a festival-closing slot at Riot Fest this September, The Cure also showed its cuddlier side. Bob Gendron, Chicago Tribune, 11 June 2023 Over the past decade, in my experience coaching thousands of female entrepreneurs and sales professionals to achieve their personal visions for success, there are three basic questions that always prelude a clarity session together to lay the foundation of the individual’s success story. Yec, Forbes, 28 Apr. 2021 In Rome, Christian leaders incorporated the tradition as a way to prelude Lent, the 40-day fasting period between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Victoria Moorwood, The Enquirer, 7 Feb. 2023 The launch will prelude a full opening sometime in January, ahead of Chinese New Year, according to the SFMTA. Ricardo Cano, San Francisco Chronicle, 20 Sep. 2022 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 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'prelude.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



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

First Known Use


1561, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1632, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

Time Traveler
The first known use of prelude was in 1561

Dictionary Entries Near prelude

Cite this Entry

“Prelude.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
: something that comes before and prepares for the main or more important parts
the wind was a prelude to the storm
: a short musical introduction (as to an opera)
: a musical piece (as an organ solo) played at the beginning of a church service


2 of 2 verb
preluded; preluding
: to give, play, or serve as a prelude

More from Merriam-Webster on prelude

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