al·​lude ə-ˈlüd How to pronounce allude (audio)
alluded; alluding

intransitive verb

: to make indirect reference
comments alluding to an earlier discussion
broadly : refer

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Usage of Allude

Allude is a word with playful roots—literally. It comes from the Latin alludere, which means "to play with," and shares the root of Latin ludere ("to play") with other English words, such as ludicrous and delude. One of the former meanings of allude was "to engage in wordplay": this sense is now long obsolete.

Although some people think that allude must always specifically entail an indirect reference, this is not the case; people have been using allude in the sense of "to refer to directly" for well over a century (as in "The Man Without a Country," the short story by Edward Everett Hale from 1863: "He never alluded so directly to his story again..."). So while allude may more commonly be used in the sense of expressing something indirectly, it is neither uncommon nor improper to use it to mean something more direct.

Allude need not always be followed by the preposition to, although that is the most common construction in modern usage.

Example Sentences

As alluded to previously, the entire universe may actually exist in a higher-dimensional space. Clifford A. Pickover, Surfing Through Hyperspace, 1999
Adams had alluded to slavery in 1816, when he confided to Jefferson that "there will be greater difficulties to preserve our Union, than You and I, our Fathers Brothers Friends … have had to form it." Joseph J. Ellis, American Heritage, May/June 1993
The more challenging problems in fact—ones that the optimists rarely allude to—will be the problems of success. Charles R. Morris, Atlantic, October 1989
Mrs. Simons alluded to some health problems, without being specific.
Recent Examples on the Web Additionally, many of Cleveland’s lobby cards allude to plots that subverted and parodied the gender expectations of their time. Ella Feldman, Smithsonian Magazine, 19 Oct. 2022 And asked for advice to younger economists, Mr. Bernanke seemed to allude to the twists his career took, from researching financial crises to steering the world’s largest economy through one. Jeanna Smialek, New York Times, 10 Oct. 2022 Yet both stopped short of publishing the full contents of the call, opting to instead allude to what was said. Elise Taylor, Vogue, 9 Nov. 2022 The daughter, Elizabeth I, is more coy, refusing to meet the viewer’s gaze and relying on layers of symbolism to allude to the strength of her rule. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian Magazine, 11 Oct. 2022 The Isaacsons wanted their home to allude to the city’s eccentric style and its native design codes but not evoke them directly. ELLE Decor, 21 Sep. 2022 While several songs on the album seem to allude to the singer's long-term relationship with Alwyn, there is at least one track that fans think is inspired by her past love life. Sophie Dodd, Peoplemag, 21 Oct. 2022 The lyrics also allude to Swift’s tumultuous life in the spotlight, and the ways in which her relationship with Alwyn has provided shelter. Lauren Puckett-pope, ELLE, 21 Oct. 2022 But legal documents allude to a mysterious group of moderators who are making calls on what is and isn’t spam on Twitter on a daily basis. Morgan Meaker, WIRED, 28 Sep. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'allude.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Latin alludere, literally, to play with, from ad- + ludere to play — more at ludicrous

First Known Use

circa 1531, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of allude was circa 1531

Dictionary Entries Near allude

Cite this Entry

“Allude.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


al·​lude ə-ˈlüd How to pronounce allude (audio)
alluded; alluding
: to speak of or hint at without mentioning directly

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