Elusive Meanings

Posted in Figuratively Speaking at 7:45 am by Marion


Today I had to dig my dictionary out from beneath my Urgent-To Do pile, which was crowned by my cat’s food bowl. That tells you a lot about the week I’ve had, since one of my cardinal rules is to NEVER place anything atop my dictionary. It should be easily reachable … to encourage, and never discourage this sometimes lazy writer, me to consult it.

So I’ve moved that Urgent-To Do pile to another location. And Yes. Today, I’ll get through it. (Sure I will ….)

Meanwhile, it’s Friday, my favorite day of the week here at Fiction Daily, and a chance to take a whimsical journey from one word to the next.


ELUDE takes us from a bad situation, and is a transitive verb that means to evade or escape, typically in a skillful or cunning way. I think of Bugs Bunny avoiding Elmer Fudd.

Elude also gives us the sense of something that is just outside of our reach, verbally, something we can’t grasp or remember. The meaning of his speech eluded me.

It also refers to someone who avoids penalty. Though he was convicted, he eluded his punishment by leaving the country.

It comes to us from the Latin eludere, “ex” meaning out, away from and “ludere” to play. It also gives us “elusive,” as in The elusive answer to his questions about the meaning of life.

ALLUDE, on the other hand, is a reference to something; a suggestion. He alluded to his work only briefly, as he was modest. It also comes to us from ludere to play, plus “ad” toward.

DELUDE also comes from that Latin root, but combines with “de” in the sense of “with pejorative force” to give us a word that means to impose a misleading belief on someone, to deceive or fool.

ILLUDEis a mostly poetic word that means to trick or delude, but comes from a different origin. It is taken from the Latin illudere, to mock.

ELUTE is a word that found some vogue in recent years when attached, wrongly, to a medical device known as a “drug eluting stent.” In fact, elute means to remove an absorbed substance by washing with a solvent. It is usually used in chromatography, a chemical process that separates substances in a mixture.

And should not be confused with EXUDE, which means to discharge (in the transitive sense) or to be displayed by someone (in the intransitive sense). Transitive: He exuded a strange odor we believe was related to his time in the Amazon. Intransitive: Our displeasure was exuded.

Exude comes to us from the Latin exsudare, from ex, out and sudare, to sweat.

So let not a doctor delude you when it comes to describing those stents. I’d rather have a stent that exudes a healing drug, than one which is performing a chemical operation inside me. Then again, I’d rather elude the whole stent thing altogether.


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