Allusion: Definition, Meaning and Examples

An Allusion is a figure of speech that gives an implicit or indirect reference to another work of literature or art, to a person, or thing, or an event. Each of these concepts can be real or imaginary, referring to anything from fiction, to folklore, to historical events and religious manuscripts. It is often a kind of appeal to a reader to share some experience with the writer. An allusion may enrich the work by association and give it depth. When using allusions a writer tends to assume an established literary tradition, a body of common knowledge with an audience sharing that tradition, and an ability on the part of the audience to pick up the reference.

For example-

  • Ramesh is the Einstein in our physics class. (Albert Einstein)
  • Today might be the Ides of March. (Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar)
  • Rima is looking like Venus (alluding to the goddess of beauty)
  • My friend is a Romeo (Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet)
  • “This place is like a Garden of Eden.” The Garden of Eden was the paradise God made for Adam and Eve.


The following kinds may be roughly distinguished:

  • (a) a reference to events and people (e.g. there are a number in Dryden’s and Pope’s satires);
  • (b) reference to facts about the author himself (e.g. Shakespeare’s puns on Will; Donne’s pun on Donne, Anne);
  • (c) a metaphorical allusion (there are many examples in T. S. Eliot’s work);
  • (d) an imitative allusion (e.g. Johnson’s to Juvenal in London).

Also read: Pathetic Fallacy: Definition and Examples