Word Confusion: Allude versus Refer

Posted May 8, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

The noun form for allude was explored in “Allusion vs Delusion vs Illusion“; this post discovers the difference — minute as it may be (even refer uses allude to as part of its definition!) — between allude and refer.

Seriously though, to allude to something is to dance around it, to “glance” at it indirectly, to suggest.

To refer to something or someone is to be direct and clear.

You may also want to explore the post, “Delusive vs Elusive vs Illusive“. Be aware this pair of word confusions, allude vs refer, is a homonym.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Allude Refer
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: allude and refer; Word Reference.com: refer

Aerial view of the memorial site for the Gazelle XX377 shootdown incident, Pleasant Peak, Falkland Islands. The numbers 205 are rocks painted white, they refer to 205 Signal Squadron.

“XX377 Memorial 3” is Nimbus227’s own work and is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The number “205” is a subtle memorial that alludes to 205 Signal Squadron.

Inside a sandwich shop with people working and eating

“Maid-Rite Sandwich Shop” is Rklawton’s own work under the CC BY 2.5 license, via Wikimedia Commons

The menu board refers to the food sold here at Maid-Rite.

Part of Grammar:
Verb, intransitive

Third person present verb: alludes
Past tense or past participle: alluded
Gerund or present participle: alluding

Verb, intransitive & transitive

Third person present verb: refers
Past tense or past participle: referred
Gerund or present participle: referring

Usually allude + to

Suggest or call attention to indirectly

  • Hint at
  • Mention without discussing at length
  • [Of an artist or a work of art] Recall (an earlier work or style) in such a way as to suggest a relationship with it

[Usually followed by to] To contain a casual or indirect reference

Verb, intransitive:
[Refer to] Mention or allude to

  • [Refer to; of a word or phrase] Describe or denote
    • Have as a referent

[Refer to] Read or otherwise use (a source of information) in order to ascertain something

  • Consult

Verb, transitive:
[Refer someone to] Direct the attention of someone to

[Refer something to] To hand over or submit for information, consideration, decision, etc., to (another body, typically one with more authority or expertise) for a decision

  • [Refer someone to] Send or direct someone to a medical specialist

[Refer something to; archaic] Trace or attribute something to (someone or something) as a cause or source

  • Regard something as belonging to (a certain period, place, or class)
  • Regard as related

To direct for information or anything required

To have relation

  • Relate
  • Apply
She had a way of alluding to Jean but never saying her name.

We will allude briefly to the main points.

The photographs allude to the Italian Baroque style.

He often alluded to his poverty.

The letter alludes to something now forgotten.

Verb, intransitive:
The reports of the commission are often referred to in the media.

New York is frequently referred to as the Big Apple.

The term rhetoric almost invariably refers to persuasion.

I always refer to a dictionary when I come across a new word.

Verb, transitive:
She referred me to Jane for further information.

I refer my colleague to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

A disagreement arose and the issue was referred back to the Executive Committee.

She was referred to a clinical psychologist for counseling.

The God to whom he habitually referred his highest inspirations.

He referred me to books on astrology.

The asterisk refers the reader to a footnote.

We had to refer the argument to arbitration.

The government refers to a plumber’s work as a blue-collar job.

This new regulation does not really refer to your company.

Verb, intransitive: preallude, prealluded, prealluding Adjective: referable, referrable, referrible, unreferred, well-referred
Noun: referrer
Verb: misrefer, misreferred, misreferring
Verb, transitive: prerefer, prereferred, prereferring
History of the Word:
Late 15th century, in the sense hint at, suggest from the Latin alludere, which is from ad- (toward) + ludere (to play). Late Middle English from the Old French referer or the Latin referre meaning carry back, which is from re- (back) + ferre (bring).

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

“Refer a Friend” is courtesy of Aquazone.