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  1. something that illustrates, as a picture in a book or magazine.
  2. a comparison or an example intended for explanation or corroboration.
  3. the act or process of illuminating.
  4. the act of clarifying or explaining; elucidation.
  5. Archaic. illustriousness; distinction.

Origin of illustration

1325–75; Middle English < Latin illustrātiōn- (stem of illustrātiō) the act of making vivid, illustrating. See illustrate, -ion
Related formsnon·il·lus·tra·tion, nouno·ver·il·lus·tra·tion, nounpre·il·lus·tra·tion, nounre·il·lus·tra·tion, nounsu·per·il·lus·tra·tion, noun

Synonyms for illustration

See more synonyms for on
2, 4. explication.

Synonym study

2. See case1. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for illustration

Contemporary Examples of illustration

Historical Examples of illustration

  • He had for years been writing of family and social duties; here was his illustration!

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • And this illustration has significance for more than the physical order of revelation.

  • Let us look at the opening chapters of Genesis for illustration.

  • A glance at the illustration will make this plain, and also show how the wires are to be placed.

    Flying Machines

    W.J. Jackman and Thos. H. Russell

  • Not from the marvellous, my friends; let us seek an illustration from the ordinary.

British Dictionary definitions for illustration


  1. pictorial matter used to explain or decorate a text
  2. an example or demonstrationan illustration of his ability
  3. the act of illustrating or the state of being illustrated
Derived Formsillustrational, adjective
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 illustration

c.1400, "a shining;" early 15c., "a manifestation;" mid-15c., "a spiritual illumination," from Old French illustration "apparition, appearance," and directly from Latin illustrationem (nominative illustratio) "vivid representation" (in writing), literally "an enlightening," from past participle stem of illustrare "light up, make light, illuminate;" figuratively "make clear, disclose, explain; adorn, render distinguished," from assimilated form of in- "in" (see in- (2)) + lustrare "make bright, illuminate," related to lucere "shine," lux "light" (see light (n.)). Mental sense of "act of making clear in the mind" is from 1580s. Meaning "an illustrative picture" is from 1816.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper