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Allude vs. Elude – How to Pick the Correct Word

Allude vs. Elude – How to Pick the Correct Word

While lazy pronunciation and/or lack of good ear for English vowels can make these words sound similar, elude should be pronounced with a short “E” sound, and allude should be pronounced with a short “U” sound.

These verbs have quite different meanings, so reading this article will help you determine whether you are using elude or allude correctly.

Short and Sweet: Allude vs. Elude

Elude and allude are both verbs.

  • Elude means to evade or to escape.
  • Allude means to make an indirect reference.

This article elaborates on these definitions. You will also find a simple way to remember when to use allude or elude.

What Does Elude Mean?

Meaning of Elude: Elude means to avoid capture.

  • The criminal eluded the police for five years before they finally caught her.
  • The stray dogs managed to elude the dog catcher.

In these examples, the subjects are evading their pursuers by avoiding capture. While evade is a close synonym for elude, the same cannot be said for escape. Escape can also mean to break free from capture.

  • The dogs escaped from the pound!

In this example, you cannot use the word elude to replace escape because the dogs have already been captured and are breaking free, rather than avoiding capture.

Many abstract concepts can be elusive, too.

  • Do you remember who that actress is? Her name eludes
  • Sleep eluded him, and he stared out the window all night.

These are examples of things like information or sleep that the subject of the sentence is unable to obtain. These things elude, or evade, the subject.

What Does Allude Mean?

Meaning of Allude: To allude is to imply, or to make a subtle reference.

  • The manager alluded to layoffs but would not confirm anything to her employees.
  • My boyfriend began alluding to marriage but still hasn’t made a proposal.

In these examples, people are hinting at things without saying them directly.

Allude also relates to the literary device allusion. An allusion is a reference to a well-known work of art.

Most frequently, artists allude to Shakespeare or the Bible.

  • The author alludes to the Bible in the scene with the lovers in the garden.
  • When the protagonist cries, “Out, out damn spot!” it is an allusion to Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

Allude vs. Elude: How to Remember the Difference

So how do you remember whether to use elude or allude? Notice that elude begins with an “E,” the same as two of its synonyms, evade and escape. Remember that all of these “E” words go together!

Alternatively, allude begins with an “A” like art. Allusion is frequently used in art to refer to other art.

Recap: When to Use Elude and Allude

Elude and allude are both verbs, but they are otherwise quite different words.

  • Elude means to evade, or to avoid capture.
  • Allude means to imply, or make a subtle reference.

While allude can be used in other contexts, artists use allusion to reference other well-known works.