• English Vocabulary: Allusion or Illusion?

    Some commonly confused English vocabulary words that are often mistaken even by English speakers are allusion and illusion.

    The picture is not spinning, it's an illusion.

    Do you know the difference between them?

    There was a famous pop song of the 1980’s with one of these words in the title by a band called Imagination. What do you think it was called? Was it Just an Allusion or Just an Illusion?


    An allusion is a figure of speech that means to make reference to something in a direct or indirect way.

    An allusion is mostly used when talking about literature.

    For example:

    The writer is making an allusion to the work of the great Russian writer, Tolstoy, in this reference.

    However, the prevalence of the word has spread and now it is also used to talk about film, art, photography and many other forms of visual art.

    In general conversation it is used to describe the act of making a passing reference to something.

    For example:

    The cake has the same smell as my mother’s pastries. Here, allusion is being made to my mother’s pastries.

    The verb form of allusion is regular with I am alluding to and he alludes to being the most commonly used versions.


    An illusion occurs when the senses are deceived. It happens when the reality and what is perceived are different.

    For example:

    I had hoped John would come home for the holidays but that was an illusion.

    The classic example of an illusion is a mirage in the desert when someone is convinced he or she is seeing a lake of water when it does not exist in reality.


    Fill in the blanks with either allusion or illusion.

    I had the ________ that I would go straight to university after school but I don’t think I will be able to.

    My teacher made an _______ to the Roman Empire in class today.

    Her work is full of optical _______.

    It looks like the river has been dyed green but don’t worry, it’s just an ______.

    Don’t forget to _____ to the Dutch masters in your essay. You will get a higher grade if you do.

    Did you remember the name of that 1980’s pop song? Let’s see if you got it right.

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