Printable Version
Pronunciation: i-lud Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: To deceive with false hope, to trick with a false impression.

Notes: Most of us use illusion as though it exists in a vacuum. This word, however, is the noun from the very legitimate verb illude. Aside from the noun, this verb sports an adjective, illusive "ghostly, deceptive in appearance". Several cousins of illude share very similar meanings. Elude is a homophone, pronounced the same as illude, but implying escape from capture, as to elude police arrest. Delude sounds different, but is a near synonym, with a meaning very similar to that of illude. The noun from this word, of course, is illusion, as in that trick on the eyes, the optical illusion.

In Play: Hopes, dreams, and goals can be both illusive and elusive, so it is important that we keep these two words separate when we write: "Thom Dunderhead was illuded into thinking he could become a professional football player by his success in college sports." Remember that today's Good Word refers to deception, like an optical illusion: "The glitz and glamour of Las Vegas illuded Phyllis Limmer into thinking she would be happy as a showgirl."

Word History: Today's Good Word was taken from Latin illudere "to mock or ridicule". This verb is made up of the prefix in- "in, at" + ludere "to play". The N in the prefix in- is a consonantal chameleon, which is to say it assimilates with the initial consonant of any word it attaches to. So, it becomes il- before L as in illuminate, ir- before R as in irradiate, and im- before sounds made by the lips, as we see in import and imbue—all borrowed from Latin or its daughter language, French. The same root appears in ludicrous "utterly ridiculous", the English adaptation of Latin ludicrus "sportive, playful". (I would only be illuding you were I to say that Miriam Webster suggested today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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