Definition of élan
: vigorous spirit or enthusiasm
élan was our Word of the Day on 03/19/2012. Hear the podcast!
Examples of élan in a sentence
The dancer performed with great élan.
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."
Origin and Etymology of élan
French, from Medieval French eslan rush, from (s')eslancer to rush, from ex- + lancer to hurl — more at lance
First Known Use: 1864
ÉLAN Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of élan for English Language Learners
: energy and enthusiasm
Seen and Heard
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