allusion vs. illusion  

What is the difference between allusion and illusion?

In casual speech, allusion and illusion are both pronounced /əˈluʒən/, with their first vowels being reduced to the unstressed schwa sound. (When spoken carefully, though, illusion is pronounced /ɪˈluʒən/.)
Though they sound very similar, the nouns allusion and illusion have very different meanings. The more common word, illusion, means “a false, erroneous, deceitful, or misleading perception, belief, or impression,” as in:
  • “They were under the illusion that fans of the first film would automatically want to see the sequel.”
  • “Magicians are really just very good at creating illusions that trick the mind.”
  • “That mirage is an illusion—just ignore it.”
An allusion, meanwhile, is “an indirect, obscure, or oblique reference to something or someone else.” For example:
  • “The character’s name is a clear allusion to the Irish pirate Grace O’Malley.”
  • “There was an allusion to the campaign scandal during the press briefing, but it was quickly dropped from the discussion.”

Spelling Tricks and Tips

One way to remember which spelling to use is to keep in mind that the noun allusion is formed from the verb allude—if someone alludes to someone or something, they are making an allusion. Illusion, on the other hand, does not have a related verb form. So, if you can rework the sentence with the word functioning as a verb instead of a noun, the correct spelling will be allusion. For example:
  • “There was an allusion to the campaign scandal during the press briefing, but it was quickly dropped from the discussion.”
  • “Magicians are really just very good at creating illusions that trick the mind.”
Quiz

1. Choose the sentence in which allusion is the correct spelling.





2. Choose the sentence in which illusion is the correct spelling.





3. Which of these words has an associated verb form?



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