Another set of words I get asked about frequently is the difference between allude and elude. Even though these two words aren’t a set of homophones, they’re still tough to tell apart. They are relatively similar in their spelling, both sharing the same root word from the Latin ludere, meaning to play, and they are quite similar in their sound. Yet despite these similarities, they actually have very different meanings.
Today, I want to go over their definitions and give you a few tricks to remember their difference.
When to Use Allude
Allude is a verb, meaning to make an indirect reference. For example,
- She kept alluding to him but would never say his name.
- The politician alluded to the recession by saying, “We’ve all had to make cuts.”
As you can see, to allude to (something) is to call attention to it or to hint at something, not to just state it plainly or directly. To allude is to give a glancing mention to something but never actually naming it. Instead, by alluding, you give the reader a means of making the identification for him or herself by hinting at it.
You should be careful not to use allude when quote or refer would be better—that is, where there is a direct mention or quotation.
When to Use Elude
Elude is also a verb, meaning to evade or escape (from danger, an enemy, or a pursuer) usually in a skillful or cunning way.For example,
- The robbers eluded the police by ducking into a dark alley.
- They eluded the zombies through their wit and survival training.
Elude can also be applied to ideas or facts, to escape the memory or understanding of,and achievement or something desired and pursued, failed to be attained by.
- This scientific theory has always eluded me.
- The only thing that eludes him is a championship ring.
As you can see, the definitions of elude and allude have virtually nothing to do with each other.
Remember the Difference
The way that I remember elude vs. allude is by looking at their first letter.
Elude starts with an E and so does Escape. To elude is to escape.
Allude starts with an A and so does Absent. Since to allude is to make an indirect reference, a direct reference is absent.
Quiz and Sentence Examples
- The deer ______ the hunters with its artful run.
- After coming back to work, she ______ to her health problems but wasn’t specific.
- He was able to ______ arrest with the help of his lawyer.
- I tried to ______ to this earlier, but no one caught on.
- Courage is something that ______ him.
Display the answers below
It’s important to keep these words separated because their meanings have nothing in common, and if you mix them up, you might be accused of sloppy writing.
Allude means to call attention to indirectly or hint at.
Elude mean to escape from capture, from memory, or to be unattained by.
See our other post for the difference between allusion and elusion.