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[prel-yood, preyl-, prey-lood, pree-] /ˈprɛl yud, ˈpreɪl-, ˈpreɪ lud, ˈpri-/
a preliminary to an action, event, condition, or work of broader scope and higher importance.
any action, event, comment, etc. that precedes something else.
  1. a relatively short, independent instrumental composition, free in form and resembling an improvisation.
  2. a piece that precedes a more important movement.
  3. the overture to an opera.
  4. an independent piece, of moderate length, sometimes used as an introduction to a fugue.
  5. music opening a church service; an introductory voluntary.
verb (used with object), preluded, preluding.
to serve as a prelude or introduction to.
to introduce by a prelude.
to play as a prelude.
verb (used without object), preluded, preluding.
to serve as a prelude.
to give a prelude.
to play a prelude.
Origin of prelude
1555-65; (noun) < Medieval Latin praelūdium, equivalent to prae- pre- + -lūdium play; compare Latin lūdus play; (v.) < Latin praelūdere to play beforehand
Related forms
preluder, noun
[pri-loo-dee-uh l] /prɪˈlu di əl/ (Show IPA),
preludious, adjective
preludiously, adverb
unpreluded, adjective
1. introduction, opening, beginning. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for prelude
  • But as I now know, landing the job is only a prelude to the real prize.
  • Anyways, it was fun, hopefully a prelude of things to come on Friday.
  • He began to prelude on the harp, which he had placed before him.
  • But it offers not peace, only the prelude to a peace.
  • It was the prelude to scandalous waste and corruption.
  • The brief examination that followed was not unlike a prelude to ambassadorial appointment.
  • Compared with the prelude, the hearing itself was a bit of a letdown.
  • And so the talk ran on a little longer, while the organ prelude could already be heard from the church.
  • It was a prelude, a necessary but insufficient foundation for belief.
  • Liquid voice resounded like the prelude of a flute.
British Dictionary definitions for prelude


  1. a piece of music that precedes a fugue, or forms the first movement of a suite, or an introduction to an act in an opera, etc
  2. (esp for piano) a self-contained piece of music
something serving as an introduction or preceding event, occurrence, etc
to serve as a prelude to (something)
(transitive) to introduce by a prelude
Derived Forms
preluder (prɪˈljuːdə; ˈprɛljʊdə) noun
preludial, adjective
prelusion (prɪˈljuːʒən) noun
prelusive (prɪˈljuːsɪv), prelusory (prɪˈljuːsərɪ) adjective
prelusively, prelusorily, adverb
Word Origin
C16: (n) from Medieval Latin praelūdium, from prae before + -lūdium entertainment, from Latin lūdus play; (vb) from Late Latin praelūdere to play beforehand, rehearse, from lūdere to play
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 prelude

1560s, from Middle French prélude "notes sung or played to test the voice or instrument" (1530s), from Medieval Latin preludium "prelude, preliminary," from Latin praeludere "to play beforehand for practice, preface," from prae- "before" (see pre-) + ludere "to play" (see ludicrous). Purely musical sense first attested in English 1650s. Related: Prelusion.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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