\ 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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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 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 The performance’s ferocity was matched by its technical elan. Howard Reich, chicagotribune.com, 22 Oct. 2019 Garoppolo has the talent, smarts, and elan to be an elite quarterback someday. Globe Staff, BostonGlobe.com, 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, 10 June 2019

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

14 Dec 2021

Cite this Entry

“élan.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/%C3%A9lan. Accessed 24 Jan. 2022.

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English Language Learners Definition of élan

: energy and enthusiasm

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