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[uh-loo-zhuh n] /əˈlu ʒən/
a passing or casual reference; an incidental mention of something, either directly or by implication:
The novel's title is an allusion to Shakespeare.
the act of alluding; the making of a casual or indirect reference to something:
The Bible is a fertile source of allusion in art.
Obsolete. a metaphor or parable.
1540-50; < Late Latin allūsiōn- (stem of allūsiō), equivalent to allūs(us), past participle of allūdere (see allude; al- + lūd- play + -tus past participle suffix) + -iōn- -ion
Related forms
preallusion, noun
Can be confused
allusion, reference.
allusion, delusion, elusion, hallucination, illusion (see synonym study at illusion) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for allusion
  • This is an enormous collection of the allusions to Shakespeare from 1591 to 1700.
  • This was a startling allusion to several bodies of knowledge simultaneously.
  • Belief is the process where the brain converts illusion to allusion, and allusion into certainty.
  • The barbershop allusion is funny.
  • My once-bulging file of poetic allusions is flapping near emptily.
  • Rather than arguing directly, we're putting forward a review by allusion and inference.
  • The veiled allusion to Catalan in the last paragraph is totally nonsense.
  • The allusion to Camelot was unmistakable.
  • His was a classical allusion meaning to look back to a mythical 'golden age'.
  • The allusion is to games played with cards, such as whist.
British Dictionary definitions for allusion


the act of alluding
a passing reference; oblique or obscure mention
Word Origin
C16: from Late Latin allūsiō, from Latin allūdere to sport with, allude
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for allusion

1540s, from Latin allusionem (nominative allusio) "a playing with, a reference to," noun of action from past participle stem of alludere (see allude). An allusion is never an outright or explicit mention of the person or thing the speaker seems to have in mind.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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allusion in Culture

allusion definition

An indirect reference to some piece of knowledge not actually mentioned. Allusions usually come from a body of information that the author presumes the reader will know. For example, an author who writes, “She was another Helen,” is alluding to the proverbial beauty of Helen of Troy.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Encyclopedia Article for allusion

in literature, an implied or indirect reference to a person, event, or thing or to a part of another text. Allusion is distinguished from such devices as direct quote and imitation or parody. Most allusions are based on the assumption that there is a body of knowledge that is shared by the author and the reader and that therefore the reader will understand the author's referent. Allusions to biblical figures and figures from classical mythology are common in Western literature for this reason. However, some authors, such as T.S. Eliot and James Joyce, deliberately use obscure and complex allusions that they know few people would understand. Similarly, an allusion can be used as a straightforward device to enhance the text by providing further meaning, but it can also be used in a more complex sense to make an ironic comment on one thing by comparing it to something that is dissimilar. The word is from the late Latin allusio meaning "a play on words" or "game" and is a derivative of the Latin word alludere, meaning "to play around" or "to refer to mockingly."

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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