I'd like to know there is any difference in meaning between "by way of illustration" and "as an illustration"? or there are used interchanged? I'd like to use it in the following text in the meaning of "in order to illustrate [the concept previously mentioned]".

According to the reading, the term "revealing coloration" refers to the defense mechanism adopted by many animals by which they display the bright areas of their body all of a sudden to frighten predators away. By way of illustration, the professor offers two examples.

In some dictionaries "by way of illustration" is defined as "as an example", but I can see many cases in newspapers that it is used in the meaning I mentioned above. Could you please clarify this point? Thank you in advance!

  • Surely an illustration (in the sense you mean) is the same as an example? Sep 9, 2021 at 7:51

1 Answer 1


One of the definitions of "to illustrate" is "to make clear by giving or by serving as an example or instance" (Merriam-Webster). I don't quite see the difference in meaning you're seeing.

"By way of illustration" is idiomatic / a fixed way of saying things.

"As an illustration" is grammatical and fine, meaning the same thing as "by way of illustration", but I would usually expect something after it. For example: "X includes Y. As an illustration of this / of this principle / etc, ..." But "of this" could be implied and thus omitted, I suppose...

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