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Allusion vs. Illusion vs. Delusion

The easiest way for me to remember these three words is to remember where they fall on a continuum.

They all essentially refer to something that is not physically visible or present at the moment, but each word offers a slight twist on that concept.

allusion-illusion-delusion

Allusion

This is the word most anchored in reality. Allusion simply means an indirect mention of something. So for example:

"So ... I hope it's okay that I invited Jack to the party."

"If you're alluding to our recent break-up, don't worry. It was amicable."

Allusion is often used as a literary device. So for example, many authors will allude or make allusions to things without outright stating them - which means that you, as the reader, have to infer what they're really saying.

Illusion

This is the word that flirts between reality and fantasy. Illusion refers to a fleeting or temporary false impression. So for example:

"So ... I hope it's okay that I invited Jack to the party."

"It's okay. I'm over him. I am no longer under any illusion that he's the one for me."

Illusion is often used to refer to magic tricks. So for example, when we see a magician saw a woman in half, we know that we're simply seeing an optical illusion of some sort.

Delusion

This is the word that is most anchored in fantasy. Delusion is a belief that something is true, even when there's evidence to prove that it's not. So for example:

"So ... I hope it's okay that I invited Jack to the party."

"Oh boy. Better not invite Mary. She's deluded herself into believing that they're getting back together."

Delusion is probably the easiest to remember, thanks to popular phrases like: "Are you delusional?!" or "The politician had delusions of grandeur."

I hope this helps! Looking for more?

Betty

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