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[ih-loo-siv] /ɪˈlu sɪv/
eluding or failing to allow for or accommodate a clear perception or complete mental grasp; hard to express or define:
an elusive concept.
cleverly or skillfully evasive:
a fish too elusive to catch.
difficult to find:
hoping that elusive donors will finally contribute.
Also, elusory
[ih-loo-suh-ree, -zuh-] /ɪˈlu sə ri, -zə-/ (Show IPA)
Origin of elusive
1710-20; elus(ion) + -ive
Related forms
elusively, adverb
elusiveness, noun
nonelusive, adjective
nonelusively, adverb
nonelusiveness, noun
unelusive, adjective
unelusively, adverb
unelusiveness, noun
unelusory, adjective
Can be confused
elusive, illusory.
2. tricky, slippery, shifty; puzzling, baffling. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for elusive
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The Committee will realise that this is a question with an elusive climax.

    Liberalism and the Social Problem Winston Spencer Churchill
  • Then he became more eager than ever to capture the elusive something.

    The Black Phantom Leo Edward Miller
  • It was a picture of elusive shadows, touched with warmer lights in its grays and greens.

    The Dull Miss Archinard Anne Douglas Sedgwick
  • It is too subtle and too elusive to be judged by external appearances.

    A Handful of Stars Frank W. Boreham
  • The winding, unpaved roads and dark, weatherbeaten houses stirred an elusive tag-end of memory in him.

    The Status Civilization Robert Sheckley
British Dictionary definitions for elusive


difficult to catch: an elusive thief
preferring or living in solitude and anonymity
difficult to remember: an elusive thought
Derived Forms
elusively, adverb
elusiveness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for elusive

1719, from Latin elus-, past participle stem of eludere (see elude) + -ive. Related: Elusiveness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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