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

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 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, "Financial ruin. Possible destruction. What will be the Cinerama’s Hollywood ending?," 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, "Guns N’ Roses icon’s ‘Appetite for Destruction’ era guitar to be auctioned, site says," 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, "Tiger, Tiger, burning out? Woods is scuffling at the PGA Championship," 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, "Odyssey Opera’s ‘La belle Hélène’ has flair, flaws," 17 June 2019 The performance’s ferocity was matched by its technical elan. Howard Reich, chicagotribune.com, "Review: Ken-David Masur starts a promising new chapter with Civic Orchestra," 22 Oct. 2019 Garoppolo has the talent, smarts, and elan to be an elite quarterback someday. Globe Staff, BostonGlobe.com, "Celtics’ three wings can coexist and thrive, and other thoughts," 8 Feb. 2020 Kent typically played the game with the joy and elan of a state highway patrolman – mustache and all – yet something remarkable happened on this night. Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY, "Opinion: From Big Papi to 'big brother,' David Ortiz's baseball impact a true love affair," 10 June 2019 But Gallatin cut with an elan that would have pleased Paul Ryan. Roger Lowenstein, WSJ, "‘Jefferson’s Treasure’ Review: Penny-Pincher in Chief," 19 Aug. 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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Last Updated

2 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“élan.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/%C3%A9lan. Accessed 6 May. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of élan

literary : energy and enthusiasm

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