It’s not always easy to remember the meanings of English words. English contains many words borrowed or anglicized from a variety of earlier languages, so etymology is not always a clear indicator. Likewise, pronunciation varies from region to region, and even spelling is standardized according to separate American and British norms. Even with these obstacles in place, it’s not impossible to determine the meaning of English words, or to use them correctly. Allusion and illusion are two words that often confuse beginning writers or English language learners, but distinguishing between them is not difficult.
Illusion originated from Middle English (in the sense ‘deceiving, deception’): via Old French from Latin illusio(n- ), from illudere ‘to mock’, from in- ‘against’ + ludere ‘play’. The word allusion originated in mid-16th century (denoting a pun, metaphor, or parable): from French, or from late Latin allusio(n- ), from the verb alludere.
Illusion as noun:
Allusion as noun:
Anyone familiar with the works of noted author John Feinstein knows that title could be an allusion to his 1980s book about a legendary college basketball coach and the Indiana program. [Boston Herald]
Allusion or illusion:
Since allusion and illusion are so close in terms of spelling, it can be frustrating to have to remember their different meanings. Many people mix up these words. You can be confident, however, that you know which one is correct. All you need to remember is that illusion contains the word ill. This should be easy to remember since looking at optical illusions makes many people feel ill. Now that you know the difference between these two words, you will never need to wonder whether to use allusion or illusion in your writing. You can always reread this article if you’d like a refresher on the meanings of these words.