Printable Version
Pronunciation: i-lu-siv Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Deceptive in appearance, appearing to exist but vanishing as you approach, ephemeral, fleeting, unobtainable.

Notes: Several cousins of illusive share very similar meanings. Delusive refers to having delusions, wholly false beliefs or visions, while elusive implies an object that moves away as you approach, escaping capture or confirmation. Today's word is a direct derivative of the verb illude "to deceive with false hope" and has a non-identical semantic twin in illusory, sharing exactly the same meaning. The noun is illusion and it, too, has an adjective, illusional "given to or characterized by illusions".

In Play: Hopes, dreams, and goals are most often illusive: "The loss of his driver's license has made Dusty Rhodes' dreams of becoming a stock car racer rather illusive." Illusive goals are not bad if they are not foolish, "Phyllis Glass devoted most of her later years to the illusive and elusive goal of wearing her high school clothes again."

Word History: This Good Word comes from the participial stem, illus-, of the Latin verb illudere "to mock or ridicule", based on in- "not" + ludere "to play". The prefix in- 'assimilates' to the initial sound of the word it attaches to, so it becomes il- before L (illegal, ir- before R (irreverent), im- before sounds made by the lips (immediate, imbalance). Yes, the same root appears in ludicrous "utterly ridiculous", based on Latin ludicrus, which meant simply "sportive, playful" in that language.

Dr. Goodword,

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