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 (ĭ-lo͞o′sĭv, -zĭv)
1. Tending to elude capture, perception, comprehension, or memory: "an invisible cabal of conspirators, each more elusive than the archterrorist [himself]" (David Kline).
2. Difficult to define or describe: "Failures are more finely etched in our minds than triumphs, and success is an elusive, if not mythic, goal in our demanding society" (Hugh Drummond).

[From Latin ēlūsus, past participle of ēlūdere, to elude; see elude.]

e·lu′sive·ly adv.
e·lu′sive·ness n.




  1. As slippery as an eel —Dutch proverb
    This has given rise to extensions such as, “Slippery as an eel dipped in butter” by F. van Wyck Mason.
  2. (Love is) as slippery as greased pigskin —Delmore Schwartz See Also: LOVE
  3. Avoided [another person] like a vampire avoids sunburn —Joseph Wambaugh
  4. (He was) difficult as a serpent to see —D. H. Lawrence

    The elusive creature being described is a fox sliding along in deep grass.

  5. (The feeling persisted, insidious and) difficult to trace as perfume —Harvey Swados
  6. Elusive as a collar button —Jim Murray

    Murray, sports columnist for the Los Angeles Herald, applied this simile to football player Mike Garrett.

  7. Elusive as a dream —William Diehl

    “Fugitive as dreams,” used by Tom Maclntyre in a short story Epithalamion, illustrates the possibility for change through word substitutions.

  8. Elusive as a wet fish —Anon
  9. Elusive as buried treasure —Anon
  10. Elusive as the cure for cancer —Anon
  11. Elusive as the cure for aging —Anon
  12. Elusive as the source of a rumor —Anon
  13. Elusiveness, like a thought that presents itself to consciousness and vanishes before it can be captured by words —W. Somerset Maugham
  14. Evaded me, much like the myth of Tantalus —Marguerite Young
  15. Evasion, like equivocation, comes generally from a cowardly or a deceiving spirit, or from both —Honore de Balzac
  16. Hard to hold as a flapping sail in a raging wind —Gerald Kersh

    The hold to which Kersh alludes is the grip of one wrestler on another in the story entitled All the Terrible Turk.

  17. Intangible as a beautiful thought —W. Somerset Maugham
  18. Intangible as love and fear —Andre Dubus
  19. (A vision swarming through the mind as sudden and) irretrievable as smoke —William Styron
  20. It [information] got away from me so easily, like the tail of a kite, when the kite’s already out of your hands —Cornell Woolrich
  21. It [trying to tie up a boxing opponent) was just like trying to hold onto a buzz-saw —Ernest Hemingway
  22. Like fish in an aquarium, they [two girls] flashed in and out of sight —Frank Tuohy
  23. Like sand from a clenched fist, he was slipping through her fingers —Ben Ames Williams
  24. (She was so marvelous that, when he tried to think of her, her description) rolled away from him like a dropped coin —Mark Helprin
  25. (She) seemed like a shadow within a shadow —D. H. Lawrence

    Lawrence is describing one of the two main female characters in The Fox, a woman the male character desires but doesn’t understand.

  26. She was like a rubber ball; he couldn’t get a grip —Beryl Bainbridge
  27. Slipped by like a mouse —Anton Chekhov
  28. [Something said] slipped out of me like a cork from the deep —Reynolds Price
  29. Slipped through [guards] like a fox through a barnyard —Clive Cussler
  30. Slippery as shadows in day’s foam —Delmore Schwartz
  31. They might as well be looking for a shoe in a swamp —Clive Cussler
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.elusiveness - the quality of being difficult to grasp or pin down; "the author's elusiveness may at times be construed as evasiveness"
unclearness - incomprehensibility as a result of not being clear


[ɪˈluːsɪvnɪs] Ncarácter m esquivo


[ɪˈluːsɪvnɪs] n [person, animal] → nature f insaisissable


n (of thoughts)Flüchtigkeit f; (of happiness)Unerreichbarkeit f; the elusiveness of this conceptdie Schwierigkeit, diesen Begriff zu definieren; the elusiveness of his answerseine ausweichende Antwort
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