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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.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.




  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
Similes Dictionary, 1st Edition. © 1988 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.


[ɪˈluːsɪvnɪs] Ncarácter m esquivo
Collins Spanish Dictionary - Complete and Unabridged 8th Edition 2005 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1971, 1988 © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2005


[ɪˈluːsɪvnɪs] n [person, animal] → nature f insaisissable
Collins English/French Electronic Resource. © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


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
Collins German Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged 7th Edition 2005. © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1980 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2007
References in periodicals archive ?
He's got speed, power (and) elusiveness, so he's everything that he was made out to be."
He has literally alluded to its elusiveness because of the humongous crocodiles that have infested the proverbial river Jordan.
Morrissey has been described as "a natural leader" in an AFL statement that also noted Down U20 attacker Laverty's speed and "excellent natural leap", plus an elusiveness that would make him useful close to goals.
"We are building nicely towards the opening match versus Zimbabwe, and starting well against their physicality and elusiveness is a key aim of ours.
Euan chose to write about the Amazing Atlantic Salmon and its elusiveness, whilst Iona focused on the often misunderstood Brown Hare, entitling her poem "I am not a rabbit!" The talented duo were presented with their prizes at a winners' ceremony at Edinburgh Zoo and received a goody bag full of interesting donations from competition sponsors.
Haji's hypnotic verse and lyric prose poems evoke the power of words and of wordless communion to carry us into grief, loneliness, and healing pain, tempering its fablelike tenor with an unflagging elusiveness.
ARAB NEWS The women's range promises fragrances that incorporate the mystery and elusiveness of the three key ingredients: oud, rose and amber.
In "Snooze: The Lost Art of Sleep", McGirr delves into the mysterious world of sleep, including its many benefits, its stubborn elusiveness, and exactly what our brains really get up to while we're in bed.
Defender Dara O'Shea was next to fall victim to the midfielder's elusiveness and hauled him down on the edge of the area.
But his elusiveness was punished midway through the Gold Medal match when the point deducted meant it was impossible for him to win the second round.
He argues here that Waterhouse's art prioritizes color both as the keystone of an aesthetic vision informed by an original concept of formalism, and as the essence of a specific worldview predicated on a generous recognition life's metamorphic elusiveness. Among his topics are color and aestheticism, narrative color, color and desire, and color in decor and dress.
For the record, Crawford won that big one mainly on his elusiveness, not on solid combat competence.