What is a verb for illusion? I want to use it in a sentence like the following:

The optical effect [illudes] my perception of its real shape.

But illude does not exist. But I cannot find illude in my Dictionary (OS X Dictionary.app). I want to find a verb that is somewhere between deceive and confuse.

  • 2
    I think you might be better off if you rephrased your sentence. "The optical illusion affects my perception of its real shape."
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Dec 20, 2012 at 2:00
  • 4
    Distorts would also fit. In fact, there is a verb "to illude" (it's actually the origin of the later "illusion"). OED definition 2 says To trick, impose upon, deceive with false hopes. So if OP doesn't mind being a bit "obscure/dated", he could just publish and be damned! Dec 20, 2012 at 2:49
  • 14
    -1 for unwittingly illuding many into believing "illude does not exist".
    – Kris
    Dec 20, 2012 at 5:52
  • 1
    There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.
    – Kris
    Dec 22, 2012 at 6:56
  • 3
    Does this question allude to the illusion that illude is an elision?
    – Kaz Dragon
    Jan 24, 2013 at 15:28

13 Answers 13


I think confounds is often used in this context.

The optical effect confounds my perception of its real shape.

It has a nice feel of causing consternation without deceitfulness or the sort of blundery feel you get from "confuse." And whereas people tend to be confused, senses are confounded in literature.


Um, what do you mean “illude does not exist”? Sure it does. It’s just a tad rare these days. From the OED:

illude /ɪˈl(j)uːd/, v. Now rare.

Also 6 illud.

Etymology: ad. L. illūdĕre to make sport of, jest or mock at, ridicule, occas. to trick, impose upon, f. il- (il-1) + lūdĕre to play. Cf. obs. Fr. illuder (Godef.).

† 1. trans. To mock, make sport of, deride. Obs.
2. To trick, impose upon, deceive with false hopes.

There a bit more than that, but those other senses are not used any longer; only #2 is. Here are some citations to go with it:

  • 1670 G. H. Hist. Cardinals ɪɪɪ. ɪɪɪ. 293 ― Full of hypocrisie and dissimulation, to lull and illude one another.
  • 1872 M. Collins Two Plunges for Pearl I. iii. 64 ― They had allowed their imaginations to illude them.

They also mention the forms illuded and illuding; for example:

  • 1745 Warton Pleas. Melanch. 185 ― The woodman’s stroke, or distant tinkling team··alarms The illuded sense.
  • 1887 Athenæum 3 Dec. 745/1 ― They [women] come across unfavourable specimens of the illuding sex.

I’m not saying that you’re apt to skate on entirely thick ice if you were to use these, but illude certainly DOES “exist”, and means pretty much what you would think it means.

  • 2
    No mention of it being rare here. "He had allowed his imagination to illude him". Dec 20, 2012 at 3:45
  • 1
    @coleopterist Indeed not; rather, it is marked literary, which probably suits it well.
    – tchrist
    Dec 20, 2012 at 3:48
  • 2
    I think illude is rare enough that readers will think it is a typo of elude though, which would sound odd in this context.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Dec 20, 2012 at 12:11

I might use the word obscures in that sentence:

The optical effect obscures my perception of its real shape.

From Oxford Dictionaries: "obscure (verb): Keep from being seen; conceal".

  • I like "obscures". It brings in the notion of shadows, which seems appropriate. Dec 20, 2012 at 10:17

What about deludes? I haven't seen it used as your sentence would have it, but its definition puts it close to your meaning.

  • 2
    but delude sort of has a feel of fooling someone with intention
    – KMC
    Dec 20, 2012 at 2:18
  • understood -- I sensed that because you wanted something with a hint of "deceive" it would be more appropriate than a word which simply means "confuse"
    – rosends
    Dec 20, 2012 at 2:30
  • You can't delude perception. You can only delude people.
    – ErikE
    Dec 20, 2012 at 18:50
  • is there a grammatical rule that dictates that?
    – rosends
    Dec 20, 2012 at 19:48

The optical effect dazzles my perception of its real shape.

dazzle: to lose clear vision especially from looking at bright light


Interesting question.

How about "deceive" or "mislead"? But I am not sure if you can replace "illudes" with either of these in the sentence you have given.


mes·mer·ize (mzm-rz, ms-)

tr.v. mes·mer·ized, mes·mer·iz·ing, mes·mer·iz·es

  1. To spellbind; enthrall: "He could mesmerize an audience by the sheer force of his presence" (Justin Kaplan).
  2. To hypnotize.
  • I don't think this word would apply to the O.P.'s context. To mesmerize means to entrance, and the O.P. is looking for a word that indicates something is visually not as it seems. Mesmerize seems much more mental than visual, and I'd say it connotes rapt attention more than illusion. It's still a cool word, though.
    – J.R.
    Dec 20, 2012 at 10:32
  • "mzm-rz" seriously, with no vowels?
    – ErikE
    Dec 20, 2012 at 18:51
  • “Mesmerize” comes from Franz Mesmer, the German physician who is often credited with having invented hypnosis. Since visual stimulation (vatch de vatch) is often used to initiate an hypnotic state, and since an optical illusion is another exploitation of the vulnerabilities of the mind, “mesmerize” could work. Its weakness, as you point out, is that, despite its origins, it really does mean transfixing more than misleading.
    – Allen S.
    Dec 25, 2017 at 18:11

Obfuscate can work.

  1. to confuse, bewilder, or stupefy.
  2. to make obscure or unclear: to obfuscate a problem with extraneous information.
  3. to darken.

Deceives could be appropriate, as in:

The optical effect deceives my perception of its real shape.


In this context, you might be able to use distorts:

The optical effect distorts my perception of its real shape.


Perhaps too extreme, but perverts might work. Or better maybe, subverts.

  • Thx @Reg wilco. So it's "quotes," just in titles, and emph elsewhere? Dec 20, 2012 at 10:45
  • 2
    we try to consistently use italics for use–mention distinction. Quotes are used for longer phrases or entire sentences. However, in titles italics simply don't work, so we have to resort to quotes even if it's a single word. Also, within a blockquote it's okay to use bold to highlight a particular word. Do stay away from bold italics and code formatting.
    – RegDwigнt
    Dec 20, 2012 at 10:51

The tricks baffle, the performance astonishes, amazes and astounds. It's magical and mystifying but it includes misdirection.


You could use illusory, which is an adverb.

  • 1
    That's actually an adjective.
    – b.roth
    Dec 20, 2012 at 18:51

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