Allude, Elude, and Illude: What’s the Difference?

1967 black Chevrolet ImpalaI was reading an article earlier today and noticed the writer had used allude instead of elude, so I thought I’d write about the difference between those two words—and figured I might as well include the lesser-known illude while I was at it.

Unlike anyhow and anyway, which are interchangeable under certain circumstances, none of these words are interchangeable. Here’s why:

Allude is a verb. It is used to refer to, or call attention to, something or someone indirectly.

  • “You know, the annoying demon with the receding hairline and the smug smile.” Sam alluded to Crowley so as not to summon the King of Hell by mistake.

Elude is also a verb. But it means to escape or avoid capture, usually in a skillful way. It can also be used to indicate a failure to achieve or understanding something.

  • Dean made sure the trap was secure while Sam made the call. That sneaky demon had eluded the Winchesters for the last time.

Illude is a verb too. But it’s one you won’t see very often. It means to trick or deceive.

  • Dude, if you think you can illude me into lending you my car, you better have another think coming.

The interesting thing is that all three words share a common root, which might explain the tendency to confuse them. Allude, elude, and illude all come from the Latin word ludere, meaning to play. The difference is all in the prefix, which just goes to show how important the little things really are.

I’ll leave you with an example that includes all three words:

  • Your minion alluded to how you planned to elude us, so we illuded you by letting you think you were getting away with it.


FYI, etymological information and definitions come from a combination of the Oxford Dictionary of Etymological English, the Oxford Dictionaries Online, and the Online Etymology Dictionary.

Linking up with the moonshine grid over at yeah write again this weekend. It’s the weekend and anything goes, so come join us!


Image credit: Google Images


34 thoughts on “Allude, Elude, and Illude: What’s the Difference?

  1. I’d never heard of “illude” before. Fascinating! and somehow, it just figures that the king of hell would be named Crowley. 🙂

    1. Welcome to my life! Thank goodness I get to do it for real sometimes, otherwise I think my head might explode. 😉 Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

  2. I happened to know the difference but I don’t use those words often though I didn’t know illude so I learned a new word and the interesting etymology that links them 🙂

  3. Suzanne, I have learned a new word today! I don’t think I’ve ever seen the word “illude” anywhere. It makes me think of an illusion (which tricks or deceives you into thinking it is real). You’re spoiling me – I’d rather go to you than my dictionary. 🙂

    1. Aw, what a lovely thing to say, Sue! Illude is absolutely related to illusion – we just don’t use the verb as often. I’m so glad you enjoy these posts! 🙂

  4. Thank you, Suzanne for teaching me a new word. I can allude and elude, but would have never thought to illude. I always appreciate when you throw a grammar lesson our way.

    I have a question… My granddaughter wrote a story for my blog, and I entered it at the Still this week. She had this line… ‘Their words accusing, all except hers.’ She was not sure if there should have been an apostrophe in ‘hers’. I wasn’t sure either. We tried it and it just didn’t look right.

    (p.s. I’m still trying to figure out how to raise enough money to buy you that blue outfit you fancied)

    1. You’re welcome, Ted!

      You were right not to add an apostrophe. Her is a possessive pronoun to begin with. The “s” stands in for the noun. So, in your example, you could also say, “except her words” – does that help answer your question?

      Let me know if you figure it out – I’ll need to plan for matching shoes! 😉

  5. I am not a grammar nut but when someone talked about whether people should be prosecuted for alluding the police and said the point is mute I cried.

    Ok, I didn’t cry but I did ask them if they could mute their commentary but sadly they didn’t understand why.

  6. I want to say that this is my biggest pet peeve as far as linguistic mistakes go. They are different words, people! Kind of like “loose” and “lose.”

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Melanie – and thanks for your question! The answer is in the name of my blog. It drives me batty when people misuse apostrophes – and things that should be plural end up possessing things they really shouldn’t. 🙂

  7. I didn’t realize allude and elude were two different words. As a professional editor, it’s somewhat embarrassing to admit that. Thanks for saving me some embarrassment down the road, Suzanne!

  8. Oh that example including all three of the ludes is so clever. I understood allude and elude but hadn’t heard of illude. Thank you for expanding my vocabulary and making me smile in the process.

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