1. something that illustrates, as a picture in a book or magazine.
  2. a comparison or an example intended for explanation or corroboration.
  3. the act or process of illuminating.
  4. the act of clarifying or explaining; elucidation.
  5. Archaic. illustriousness; distinction.


  1. pictorial matter used to explain or decorate a text
  2. an example or demonstrationan illustration of his ability
  3. the act of illustrating or the state of being illustrated

c.1400, “a shining;” early 15c., “a manifestation;” mid-15c., “a spiritual illumination,” from Old French illustration “apparition, appearance,” and directly from Latin illustrationem (nominative illustratio) “vivid representation” (in writing), literally “an enlightening,” from past participle stem of illustrare “light up, make light, illuminate;” figuratively “make clear, disclose, explain; adorn, render distinguished,” from assimilated form of in- “in” (see in- (2)) + lustrare “make bright, illuminate,” related to lucere “shine,” lux “light” (see light (n.)). Mental sense of “act of making clear in the mind” is from 1580s. Meaning “an illustrative picture” is from 1816.

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