c. 1400, "a shining;" early 15c., "a manifestation;" mid-15c., "a spiritual illumination," from Old French illustration "apparition, appearance" (13c.) 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" (from PIE root *en "in") + lustrare "make bright, illuminate," from suffixed form of PIE root *leuk- "light, brightness." Mental sense of "act of making clear in the mind" is from 1580s. Meaning "an illustrative picture" is from 1816.
word-forming element making adjectives from verbs, meaning "pertaining to, tending to; doing, serving to do," in some cases from Old French -if, but usually directly from Latin adjectival suffix -ivus (source also of Italian and Spanish -ivo). In some words borrowed from French at an early date it has been reduced to -y (as in hasty, tardy).