[uh-loo-zhuh n]


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.

Origin of allusion

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 formspre·al·lu·sion, noun
Can be confusedallusion referenceallusion delusion elusion hallucination illusion (see synonym study at illusion) Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for allusion

Contemporary Examples of allusion

Historical Examples of allusion

  • He made no allusion to the events of the night before, and she hardly spoke at all.

    The Reason Why

    Elinor Glyn

  • But the allusion to an English Duke told intensely on Dolly, who had suspected that he had a noble rival.

    The Duke's Children

    Anthony Trollope

  • Was that hint at the watchful eyes and ears, and the soft footsteps, really an allusion to Mr. Meadowcroft's daughter?

    The Dead Alive

    Wilkie Collins

  • The allusion is polemical to the vaunted progress of the Gnostic teachers.

  • The English name “Guinea-hen” is in allusion to the country from which it has been chiefly obtained in modern times.

British Dictionary definitions for allusion



the act of alluding
a passing reference; oblique or obscure mention

Word Origin for allusion

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

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

Culture definitions for allusion


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 New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.