Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. An introductory performance, event, or action preceding a more important one; a preliminary or preface.
  • n. Music A piece or movement that serves as an introduction to another section or composition and establishes the key, such as one that precedes a fugue, opens a suite, or precedes a church service.
  • n. Music A similar but independent composition for the piano.
  • n. Music The overture to an oratorio, opera, or act of an opera.
  • n. Music A short composition of the 15th and early 16th centuries written in a free style, usually for keyboard.
  • transitive v. To serve as a prelude to.
  • transitive v. To introduce with or as if with a prelude.
  • intransitive v. To serve as a prelude or introduction.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An introductory or preliminary performance or event; a preface.
  • n. A short piece of music that acts as an introduction to a longer piece.
  • v. To introduce something, as a prelude.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. An introductory performance, preceding and preparing for the principal matter; a preliminary part, movement, strain, etc.; especially (Mus.), a strain introducing the theme or chief subject; a movement introductory to a fugue, yet independent; -- with recent composers often synonymous with overture.
  • intransitive v. To play an introduction or prelude; to give a prefatory performance; to serve as prelude.
  • transitive v. To introduce with a previous performance; to play or perform a prelude to.
  • transitive v. To serve as prelude to; to precede as introductory.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To preface; prepare the way for; introduce as by a prelude; foreshadow.
  • Specifically, in music, to play a prelude to; introduce by a musical prelude.
  • To serve as a prelude to; precede as a musical prelude.
  • To perform a prelude or introduction; give a preface to later action; especially, in music, to play a prelude, or introductory passage or movement, before beginning a principal composition.
  • To serve as a prelude or introduction; especially, to constitute a musical prelude.
  • n. An introductory performance; a preliminary to an action, event, or work of broader scope and higher importance; a preface; presage; foreshadowing.
  • n. In music, a prefatory or introductory piece, section, or movement, either extended and more or less independent, as in many elaborate fugues, in suites and sonatas, in oratorios and operas, or brief and strictly connected with what is to follow, as in various shorter works and at the opening of church services and before hymns. The organ prelude to a church service is often called a voluntary. Compare intrada, introduction, overture, vorspiel, etc.
  • n. Synonyms Preface, etc. (see introduction), preliminary.
  • n. See overture

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. play as a prelude
  • n. something that serves as a preceding event or introduces what follows
  • v. serve as a prelude or opening to
  • n. music that precedes a fugue or introduces an act in an opera

Etymologies

Medieval Latin praelūdium, from Latin praelūdere, to play beforehand : prae-, pre- + lūdere, to play.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle French prelude ("singing to test a musical instrument"), from Latin preludium, from earlier Latin praeludere. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The move from women in tutus doing story ballets like Swan Lake to people in sweat pants running around the stage like gymnasts while a Bach prelude is played over the PA system did a great deal to marginalize the popularity of ballet.

    Hub helmer headlines crix confab

  • The tenuous cloud floats near the volcano's mouth, as if in prelude to an eruption.

    A Space in Time

  • She had been gone about an hour, when the sky suddenly darkened, the wind rose and the thunder rolled in prelude to the storm.

    The Hidden Hand

  • This intricate web of departments and agencies, massively staffed, is technically controlled by the president, but often seems to control him, whether through Cabinet brawls of clashing egos or interagency turf wars -- a specialty in the Bush years, particularly during the first-term prelude to Iraq, when ideological differences pitted Donald Rumsfeld and his hawks at Defense against Colin Powell's diplomats at State, with Condoleezza Rice, in her small redoubt at the National Security Council, squeezed out altogether.

    Powell's Books: Overview

  • It came as South Korea and the United States hold an annual military exercise that North Korea calls a prelude to an invasion.

    South Korea Probes Internet, GPS Disruptions

  • His first record was of the 24 preludes that Chopin published in 1839, and I thought we'd listen to a little bit of the "Raindrop" prelude, which is the most popular one.

    Chopin With A Polish Touch

  • Since February, the Army has had the power to patrol the streets jointly with the police, a measure that many called a prelude to martial law.

    Which Side Are You On?

  • The prelude was a rousing performance of "the Stars and Stripes Forever" on the piano.

    To clap or not to clap in church?

  • The pieces have been identified as the prelude and wedding march from the third act of the opera Lohengrin.

    Closing Time

  • Mercantilism ushered in what might be referred to as the prelude to modern planning.

    Leviathan or Post-War Trends in Government and Business

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