\ ā-ˈlän How to pronounce élan (audio) , ā-ˈläⁿ How to pronounce élan (audio) \

Definition of élan

: vigorous spirit or enthusiasm

Did you know?

Once upon a time, English speakers did not have élan (the word, that is; we have always had the potential for vigorous spirit). We had, however, the verb elance, meaning "to throw," that was used for the launching of darts, javelins, and similar weaponry. Elance is derived from the Middle French (s')eslancer, meaning "to rush or dash" (that is, "to hurl oneself forth"). Elance enjoyed only a short flight in English, largely falling into disuse by the mid-1800s, around which time English speakers picked up élan, another French word that traces back, via the Middle French noun eslan ("dash, rush"), to (s')eslancer. We copied élan in form from the French, but we dispensed with the French sense of a literal "rush" or "dash," retaining the sense of enthusiastic animation that we sometimes characterize as dash.

Examples of élan in a Sentence

The dancer performed with great élan.
Recent Examples on the Web The 23-year-old center fielder, acquired from Atlanta in the Matt Olson deal, plays with energy and elan, easing into an everyday role for an Oakland team still without incumbent center fielder Ramón Laureano due to suspension. Matt Kawahara, San Francisco Chronicle, 14 Apr. 2022 Orbiting her is a polished ensemble of singer-actors, who handle the nearly two dozen solo and choral numbers with the requisite elan. Washington Post, 31 Mar. 2022 Back then at the turn of the century virtually no other talented writers outside of niche metal publications were taking this music seriously, let alone writing about it with such elan. Matt Wake | Mwake@al.com, al, 9 Feb. 2022 With the white-tablecloth elan of a high-end steakhouse, Fogo de Chão is nevertheless fine with your shorts, your hat and your baby stroller. Mike Sutter, San Antonio Express-News, 11 Nov. 2021 The handsome Fox in Westwood (now known as Regency’s Village Theatre) and the lovely Alex in Glendale carry on with elan. Los Angeles Times, 20 Apr. 2021 Izzy exuded effortless rogue elan, reminiscent of punk antihero Johnny Thunders and the ultimate junkie-gypsy guitarist, Keef himself. Matt Wake | Mwake@al.com, al, 17 Mar. 2021 Woods still looks great, the gold standard for striding the links with athletic elan, but the beauty is skin deep. Scott Ostler, SFChronicle.com, 7 Aug. 2020 In the first two acts, female dancers (choreographed with elan by Marjorie Folkman) were attired like Degas’s dancing girls. Globe Staff, BostonGlobe.com, 17 June 2019 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'élan.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of élan

1864, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for élan

French, from Middle French eslan rush, from (s')eslancer to rush, from ex- + lancer to hurl — more at lance

Learn More About élan

Listen to Our Podcast About élan

Dictionary Entries Near élan




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for élan

Last Updated

20 Apr 2022

Cite this Entry

“élan.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/%C3%A9lan. Accessed 26 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More from Merriam-Webster on élan

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for élan


Test Your Vocabulary

Eponyms: Words Named After People

How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!