: vigorous spirit or enthusiasm
Jeremy told the story of his trip to Mexico with such élan that by the next week people were begging him to share it again.
"The Waldorf has long had a reputation for elegance and élan, a reputation that began when it opened in 1931 as the largest, tallest and most expensive hotel ever built...." — James Barron, The New York Times, 25 Feb. 2017
Did You Know?
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.
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