Allusion Definition, Examples, Define Allusion, What is Allusion, Meaning

Allusion definition




1. a passing or casual reference; an incidental mention of something, either directly or by implication: The novel's title is an allusion to Shakespeare.

2. the act or practice of making a casual or indirect reference to something; the act of alluding: The Bible is a fertile source of allusion in art.

3. Obsolete. a metaphor; parable.


1540–50; < Late Latin allūsiōn- (stem of allūsiō ), equivalent to allūs ( us ), past participle of allūdere (see allude; al- al- + lūd- play + -tus past participle suffix) + -iōn- -ion

Related forms

pre·al·lu·sion, noun

Can be confused: 1. allusion, reference; 2. allusion, delusion, elusion, hallucination, illusion.

1. the act of alluding 2. a passing reference; oblique or obscure mention   [C16: from Late Latin allūsiō,  from Latin allūdere  to sport with, allude ]

Allusion example

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.

In literature, it is 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."

Verb1.allude - make a more or less disguised reference to; "He alluded to the problem but did not mention it"

advert, touch

hint, suggest - drop a hint; intimate by a hint

concern, have-to doe with, pertain, bear on, come to, touch on, refer, relate, touch - be relevant to; "There were lots of questions referring to her talk"; "My remark pertained to your earlier comments"

What is the definition of Biblical allusions?

An allusion is a casual reference to something. A biblical allusion is to use an image or reference from the bible in everyday language that has nothing to do with the original use of the image or reference.

For instance, to say a supposedly powerful person has "feet of clay" is to refer to the vision of a mighty statue in the second chapter of Daniel that nevertheless collapsed because its feet were made partly of clay. Common language is full of biblical allusions, from someone having the "patience of Job" or the "wisdom of Solomon" to the desire for "forbidden fruit" to weather like that of "Noah's flood."

Part of Speech: verb

Definition: hint at

Synonyms: advert, bring up, imply, insinuate, intimate, point, refer, suggest

Notes: allude is 'mention indirectly, hint at' and refer is 'mention directly'

elude means to escape or evade from while allude means to make a more or less indirect reference to

Main Entry: insinuate

Part of Speech: verb

Definition: hint, suggest

Synonyms: allude, ascribe, connote, imply, impute, indicate, intimate, mention, propose, purport, refer, signify

Antonyms: conceal, hide, withhold

Main Entry: intimate

Part of Speech: verb

Definition: suggest; tip off

Synonyms: affirm, air, allude, announce, assert, aver, avouch, communicate, connote, declare, drop a hint, expose, express, hint, impart, imply, indicate, infer, insinuate, leak, let cat out of bag, let it be known, make known, make noise, profess, remind, spill the beans, spring, state, utter, vent, voice, warn

Main Entry: mean

Part of Speech: verb

Definition: signify, convey

Synonyms: add up, adumbrate, allude, allude to, argue, attest, augur, betoken, connote, denote, designate, determine, drive at, express, foreshadow, foretell, herald, hint at, imply,

import, indicate, intimate, involve, name, point to, portend, presage, promise, purport, represent, say, speak of, spell, stand for, suggest, symbolize, tell the meaning of, touch on

Notes: the median is the halfway point, dividing a series of numbers in half - while a mean is the average of the sum of the series

Main Entry: notice

Part of Speech: verb

Definition: observe, perceive

Synonyms: acknowledge, advert, allude, catch, clock, descry, detect, dig*, discern, distinguish, espy, flash on, get a load of, heed, look at, make out, mark, mind, note, pick up on, recognize, refer, regard, remark, see, spot, take in

Antonyms: ignore, miss, neglect, overlook

* = informal/non-formal usage

Main Entry: point out

Part of Speech: verb

Definition: call attention to

Synonyms: advert, allude, bring up, denote, designate, identify, indicate, mention, refer, remind, reveal, show, specify

Antonyms: distract

Main Entry: refer

Part of Speech: verb

Definition: mention

Synonyms: accredit, adduce, advert, allude, ascribe, assign, associate, attribute, bring up, charge, cite, credit, designate, direct attention, excerpt, exemplify, extract, give as example, glance, hint, impute, indicate, insert, instance, interpolate, introduce, invoke, lay, make

allusion, make mention of, make reference, name, notice, point, point out, put down to, quote, speak about, speak of, specify, touch on

Notes: allude is 'mention indirectly, hint at' and refer is 'mention directly'

Main Entry: suggest

Part of Speech: verb

Definition: imply; bring to mind

Synonyms: adumbrate, advert, allude, be a sign of, connote, cross the mind, denote, evoke, hint, indicate, infer, insinuate, intimate, lead to believe, occur, point, point in direction of, promise, put in mind of, refer, represent, shadow, signify, symbolize, typify


A brief, usually indirect reference to a person, place, or event--real or fictional. Adjective: allusive.


From the Latin, "to play with"

Examples and Observations:

  • "I violated the Noah rule: predicting rain doesn't count; building arks does."
    (Warren Buffett)

  • Allusions to Frost and Shakespeare
    "Even sports newsletters allude to [Robert] Frost. When a New York Giants tackle was diagnosed as having cancer, Inside Football commented, 'The rest, since there was no more to build on there, turned to their affairs.' That's an allusion to a 1916 Frost poem about a boy's accidental death: 'No more to build on there. And they, since they/ Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.' (The poem's title is 'Out, Out--,' itself an allusion by Frost to [William] Shakespeare; after Lady Macbeth dies, Macbeth speaks of life's shortness, 'Out, out, brief candle!')"
    (William Safire, "On Language: Poetic Allusion Watch." The New York Times, July 24, 1988)

    "Life is no 'brief candle' to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment; and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations."
    (George Bernard Shaw)

  • Allusions to Comic Books
    "Comic books have become reference points in the most popular and the most esoteric fiction and art. Everyone understands a Superman allusion or a Batman joke."
    (Gerard Jones, Men of Tomorrow, Basic Books, 2005)

    "I was not born in a manger. I was actually born on Krypton and sent here by my father, Jor-el, to save the Planet Earth."
    (Senator Barack Obama, speech at a fund-raiser for "Catholic" charities, October 16, 2008)

  • An Allusion to John Kennedy's Inaugural Address
    "Senator Obama's call to 'ask not just what our government can do for us, but what we can do for ourselves' had an even more direct connection to the inaugural address of the first G.I. Generation president of the United States."
    (Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais, Millennial Makeover. Rutgers Univ. Press, 2008)

  • Characteristics of Effective Allusions
    "An allusion which is explained no longer has the charm of allusion. . . . In divulging the mystery, you withdraw its virtue."
    (Jean Paulhan)

    "When they fail, allusions leave us exposed: either enmeshed in inelegant, patronizing explanations or cast adrift with insufficient provisions on the murky seas of a childlike half-understanding. Failed allusions produce feelings of betrayal on all sides because they reveal mistaken assumptions about shared frames of reference and like-mindedness. . . .

    "Unlike most tricks, the allusion triumphs only when people know precisely how it is done."
    (Elizabeth D. Samet, "Grand Allusion." The New York Times, Feb. 3, 2012)

  • Allusions to "Little Red Riding Hood"
    "Extended allusion can be used to show how deeply a story like Little Red Riding Hood is embedded in our subconscious and how it colours our vision of the real world. In Anthony Browne's The Tunnel (1989), . . . . Little Red Riding Hood is never mentioned in the text, but the numerous pictorial allusions to the well-known tale constitute a narrative thread that winds its way through the illustrations. The intertextual relationship is established in the first full plate, which contains several transparent allusions to the classic tale. The red coat with the hood which hangs visibly on a hook behind Rose's bedroom door, and which she later wears when she goes outdoors, sets up an early connection between the heroine and Little Red Riding Hood."
    (Sandra L. Beckett, Recycling Red Riding Hood. Routledge, 2002)

  • Literary Allusion as a Rhetorical Trope
    "Allusion, I suggest, functions like the trope of classical rhetoric. A rhetorical trope is usually defined as the figure created by dislodging of a term from its old sense and its previous usage and by transferring to a new, proper, or 'strange' sense and usage. The gap between the letter and the sense in figuration is the same as the gap produced between the immediate, surface meaning of the word or phrase in the text and the thought evoked by the allusion. The effect could also be described as a tension between the literal and the figurativ meaning, between the 'verbum proprium' and the 'impropium.' In both allusion and the trope, the poetic dimension is created by the simultaneous presence of two different realities whose competition with one another produces a single more complex reality. Such literary allusion produces the simultaneous coexistence of both a denotative and connotative semiotic."
    (Gian Biagio Conte, quoted by Joseph Michael Pucci in The Full-Knowing Reader: Allusion and the Power of the Reader in the Western Literary Tradition. Yale Univ. Press, 1998)

Pronunciation: ah-LOO-zhen. Also Known As: echo, reference, intertextuality
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