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[prel-yood, preyl-, prey-lood, pree-]
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  1. a preliminary to an action, event, condition, or work of broader scope and higher importance.
  2. any action, event, comment, etc. that precedes something else.
  3. Music.
    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.
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verb (used with object), prel·ud·ed, prel·ud·ing.
  1. to serve as a prelude or introduction to.
  2. to introduce by a prelude.
  3. to play as a prelude.
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verb (used without object), prel·ud·ed, prel·ud·ing.
  1. to serve as a prelude.
  2. to give a prelude.
  3. to play a prelude.
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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 formsprel·ud·er, nounpre·lu·di·al [pri-loo-dee-uhl] /prɪˈlu di əl/, pre·lu·di·ous, adjectivepre·lu·di·ous·ly, adverbun·prel·ud·ed, adjective


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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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
  1. something serving as an introduction or preceding event, occurrence, etc
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  1. to serve as a prelude to (something)
  2. (tr) to introduce by a prelude
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Derived Formspreluder (prɪˈljuːdə, ˈprɛljʊdə), nounpreludial, adjectiveprelusion (prɪˈljuːʒən), nounprelusive (prɪˈljuːsɪv) or prelusory (prɪˈljuːsərɪ), adjectiveprelusively or 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

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper