Allude vs. Elude: What’s The Difference?

The English language is one of the toughest to learn. This is because it has a million rules and contradictions that are borrowed from languages like Latin and Greek. Words that sound similar and are spelled nearly the same are some of the most difficult words to use correctly. For example, the words allude and elude sound nearly identical but have very different meanings because they are homophones, or homonyms. Let’s explore both of these confused words and where they came from:

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Definition of Allude

To gain a better understanding of a word, the best place to start is with what the word means. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the word allude means, “to make indirect reference, or refer.” To “allude to” is very common when discussing literature or adverts in English.

History and Origin of the Word Allude

Another great way to better understand a word and its meaning is to explore the history of the word and where it originated. This is better known as the etymology of a word. The word is from the 1530s when it meant “to mock”. The word allude also comes from the Latin word “alludere” which means “to play with.” It also shares common roots with “ludere” which means “to play”. One of the former meanings of allude was “to engage in wordplay” but this meaning has become outdated over time. 

Most people think that you must allude to something indirectly, but it is also used to refer to something directly. Both usages are technically correct. 

Synonyms of Allude

Exploring words with similar or related meanings can be a great way to solidify a word into your own vocabulary.  Here are some common synonyms for the word allude:

  • Suggest is defined as “put forward for consideration” or “cause one to think that something exists or is the case” or “call attention to”
  • Imply is defined as “strongly suggest the truth or existence of (something not expressly stated).”
  • Mention is defined as “refer to something briefly and without going into detail.”

The word allude is the intransitive verb of the word allusion, which is a noun. An allusion is an implied or indirect reference. There are two main types of allusions, external and internal. 

  • External allusions refer to something outside the current document. It could be a book, play, movie, event, or anything else. It is something that the reader will be familiar with.
  • Internal allusions are a reference to an event that has happened in the current document. 

Example Sentences of Allude in Context

Another good way to learn a word and apply it to your vocabulary is to hear it used properly.  Reading it or hearing a word used in its correct context is a great way to learn how to use it yourself.  Here are some common examples of the word allude used in conversation:

  • He was alluding to some of these points during class today.
  • Thomas did not allude to Hamilton in the second edition of his work.
  • The letters she received alluded to the danger that he was in.

Oftentimes people will also get allusion and illusion confused. An illusion is something that deceives the mind or senses by creating a false impression of reality. They are often related to visual perception, such as an “optical illusion”.

Definition of Elude

Elude is a word that may sound like allude, but it is very different. Elude is defined as, “to avoid adroitly” or “to escape the perception, understanding, or grasp of.” 

In a way, the two words elude and allude are nearly opposites of each other. 

History and Origin of the Word Elude

To better understand what elude means and where it comes from, let’s look at the origin. The word elude is from the 1530s where it meant “to delude or make a fool of.” It is from the Latin word “eludere” which meant “to finish a play, win at play, escape from or mock.”

Synonyms for Elude

As mentioned before, it is helpful to look at words that are similar to the word you are trying to understand. This can make it easier to include these words into conversation seamlessly. Here are some words similar to elude:

  • Evade: to escape or avoid, especially in a cunning way.
  • Dodge: to avoid (someone or something) by a sudden quick movement.
  • Flee: to run away from a place or situation of danger.

Example Sentences of Elude in Context

Just as we looked at examples of the word allude in context, let’s do the same thing for the word elude so that you know how to properly use it. 

  • The killer was able to elude the police by hiding out.
  • The cause of the disease continues to elude researchers. 
  • While he was speaking to her, the words he was looking for eluded him.

In Summary

Learning languages can often pose several challenges because languages often do not follow their own rules.  Anyone who has ever studied a second or even third language can attest to the fact that grammatical rules can be the most difficult part to learn.  From complicated verb tenses to noun declensions that cover both singular, plural, gender, and case, to the lists of pronouns that older languages like Latin supply…in short, grammar is difficult.

Although allude and elude sound very similar, they could not be more different. It is important to know what each word means so that you can use the correct spelling in the proper context. Using the wrong one will lead to confusion and chaos. 

Hopefully, after reading this article you feel more prepared to use allude and elude in everyday conversation.