elu·​sive | \ ē-ˈlü-siv How to pronounce elusive (audio) , -ˈlü-ziv\

Definition of elusive

: tending to elude: such as
a : tending to evade grasp or pursuit elusive prey
b : hard to comprehend or define
c : hard to isolate or identify

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from elusive

elusively adverb
elusiveness noun

Synonyms for elusive


evasive, fugitive, slippery

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of elusive in a Sentence

But for all their influence, D.C. lobbyists have failed to attain one elusive goal: public respect. — Franklin Foer, New Republic, 25 Mar. 2002 In truth, the ideal of wholly disinterested scholarship—in any field of research—will probably remain an elusive one. — Henry Louis Gates, Jr., New York Times, 4 Apr. 1998 His meanings have been known to be elusive, which is why he appeals to pop cryptographers. — Sarah Vowell, GQ, November 1998 This boson is so central to the state of physics today, so crucial to our final understanding of the structure of matter, yet so elusive, that I have given it a nickname: the God Particle. — Leon Lederman et al., The God Particle, 1993 The truth may prove elusive. the giant squid is one of the ocean's most elusive inhabitants
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

While mandated safety features remain elusive, millions of cars with keyless ignitions are on the road. David Jeans, New York Times, "‘Very Smart People,’ but a Keyless Car’s Downside Killed Them," 28 June 2019 For a large, urban department store, the small-town market remained elusive. Michael Waters, Smithsonian, "‘Vis-O-Matic’ Was the 1950s Version of Online Shopping," 20 June 2019 Steve Granitz The actress makes her first children’s movie—this month’s Toy Story 4—but a trip to Morocco and the power of mind control remain elusive. Patricia Arquette, Marie Claire, "Patricia Arquette Admires State Politicians and Loves McDonalds' French Fries," 17 June 2019 Jane Carson-Sandler, who traveled from Hilton Head, South Carolina, was one of dozens of women raped by the elusive Golden State Killer. NBC News, "Victims attend Golden State Killer's court appearance," 13 July 2018 Jane Carson-Sandler, who traveled from Hilton Head, South Carolina, was one of dozens of women raped by the elusive Golden State Killer. Washington Post, "Victims fly to California to see accused serial killer," 12 July 2018 The hunt for one of the nation's most elusive serial killers may now be over. Doug Criss, CNN, "5 things for April 26: Macron, Cohen, travel ban, China & India, Golden State killer," 26 Apr. 2018 After more than 40 years of fruitless tips and leads that led nowhere, investigators looking for the elusive Golden State Killer suspect got their big break with the help of genealogy websites, authorities said Thursday. Zusha Elinson, WSJ, "Hunt for Golden State Killer Suspect Used Genealogy Websites," 26 Apr. 2018 The next phase in his development is working deeper into games, which has been elusive because his command is not quite refined enough. Anthony Fenech, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Tigers observations: Bullpen gives up lead to Royals, 3-2," 11 June 2019

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

See More

First Known Use of elusive

1719, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for elusive

see elusion

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about elusive

Dictionary Entries near elusive








Statistics for elusive

Last Updated

4 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for elusive

The first known use of elusive was in 1719

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for elusive



English Language Learners Definition of elusive

: hard to find or capture
: hard to understand, define, or remember


elu·​sive | \ i-ˈlü-siv How to pronounce elusive (audio) \

Kids Definition of elusive

1 : hard to find or capture elusive treasure an elusive thief
2 : hard to understand or define an elusive idea

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on elusive

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with elusive

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for elusive

Spanish Central: Translation of elusive

Nglish: Translation of elusive for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of elusive for Arabic Speakers

Comments on elusive

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


food or victuals

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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