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(prā′lo͞od′, -lyo͞od′; prĕl′o͞od′, -yo͞od′; prē′lo͞od′, -lyo͞od′)
1. An introductory performance, event, or action preceding a more important one; a preliminary or preface.
2. Music
a. A piece or movement that serves as an introduction to another section or composition and establishes the key, such as one that precedes a fugue, opens a suite, or precedes a church service.
b. A similar but independent composition for the piano.
c. The overture to an oratorio, opera, or act of an opera.
d. A short composition of the 1400s and early 1500s written in a free style, usually for keyboard.
v. prel·ud·ed, prel·ud·ing, prel·udes
v. tr.
1. To serve as a prelude to.
2. To introduce with or as if with a prelude.
v. intr.
To serve as a prelude or introduction.

[Medieval Latin praelūdium, from Latin praelūdere, to play beforehand : prae-, pre- + lūdere, to play; see leid- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

prel′ud′er n.
pre·lu′di·al (prĭ-lo͞o′dē-əl) adj.
Usage Note: How should prelude be pronounced? In our 2015 survey, 72 percent of the Usage Panel preferred a long a (pronounced "pray") and 25 percent a short e (pronounced "prell") for the first syllable. The absence or presence of a glide—a short (y) sound—after coronal consonants such as d, t, or l is a regional variation. People who pronounce duty as (do͞o′tē) also tend to omit the glide after the l in prelude: (prā′lo͞od′). Those who pronounce duty as (dyo͞o′tē) will tend to include the glide: (prā′lyo͞od′).
References in periodicals archive ?
If the two Mendelssohn biographies under review--both of which were issued in 2008, as preludial responses to the bicentenary--had managed nothing else except to remind us of Mendelssohn's centrality to the art of his epoch, they would still be most valuable.
They have an air of preludial improvisation and were to remain a common feature of keyboard concerto language, as found, for instance, in the development sections of the Mozart concertos.
Later that summer in Konya, I saw someone doing the Rifai Turn at a roaring Qadiri zikr--it was Tassel-Pants the American, now dressed and capped in dervish gear and baggy Turkish shalvar--and after fifteen minutes of rapid whirling and a few preludial bellows he screamed horribly, clutched his head with both hands, and fell to a fetal position on the floor, trembling in every limb for a couple of minutes.