\ā-ˈläⁿ \

Definition of élan 

: vigorous spirit or enthusiasm

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Did You Know?

Once upon a time, English speakers did not have "élan" (the word, that is; that's not to say we haven't always had potential for vigorous spirit). We had, however, "elance," a verb meaning "to hurl" that was used specifically for throwing lances and darts. "Elance" derived down the line from Middle French (s')eslancer ("to rush or dash"), itself from lancer, meaning "to hurl." With the decline of lance-throwing, we tossed out "elance" a century and half ago. Just about that time we found "élan," a noun that traces 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

Directed with elan and a New Orleans flavor by Dawn M. Simmons, and featuring buoyantly propulsive choreography by Jean Appolon, with a vibrant cast that includes Davron S. Monroe as the Wiz and Salome Smith as Dorothy. BostonGlobe.com, "The Ticket: What’s happening in the local arts world," 15 June 2018 At Marvel, Lee brought jazzy verve with his dialogue, Kirby a promethean cosmic imagination, and Ditko an idiosyncratic visual elan. Jeet Heer, The New Republic, "Steve Ditko, the co-creator of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, is dead.," 7 July 2018 The dominant Brazilian team of the late '50s and early '60's; the elan and flair of Les Bleus in France '98, and Spain's victorious tiki-taka exponents. SI.com, "World Cup Countdown: 4 Days to Go - When Oranje Ditched Total Football in 2010 to Near-Perfection," 10 June 2018 Directed with elan by Dawn M. Simmons and featuring buoyantly propulsive choreography by Jean Appolon. BostonGlobe.com, "The Ticket: What’s happening in the local arts world," 25 May 2018 While champagne is always appropriate for a Royal Wedding watch, cocktails provide a certain elan that's appropriately British. Greg Morago, Houston Chronicle, "5 cocktails for your Royal Wedding watch party," 18 May 2018 When given good and specific performances to play off of — like FitzGerald's unreadable and weary wisdom or Daniyar's broadly played ethnic elan — Purnell radiates a receptiveness that works despite Tess barely having characteristics of her own. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Sweetbitter': TV Review | Tribeca 2018," 27 Apr. 2018 For more than a century, from the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 to Millennium Park, Chicago has demonstrated the capacity to think big and execute with elan. Blair Kamin, chicagotribune.com, "Around Wrigley Field, a high-stakes urban design drama plays out as buildings fall and rise," 6 Apr. 2018 With wit and elan to spare, Greene expatiates on the intrigue that ensues when David Sparsholt, an engineering student with a fiancée, Connie, and a plan to join the Royal Air Force, arrives at Oxford in 1940. Priscilla Gilman, BostonGlobe.com, "An English political scandal and gay lives over decades," 9 Mar. 2018

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.

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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

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Dictionary Entries near élan

El Alto







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Time Traveler for élan

The first known use of élan was in 1864

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English Language Learners Definition of élan

: energy and enthusiasm

Comments on élan

What made you want to look up élan? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


something that serves to warn or remind

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