Difference Between Allusive, Elusive, and Illusive (With Table)

Allusive, Elusive, and Illusive are three different words of the English language that are often mistaken for the same. The reason is their pronunciation and their form, which is an adjective. But each of these words has a distinct meaning and typical use.

Allusive vs Elusive vs Illusive

The main difference between Allusive, Elusive, and Illusive is that Allusive refers to a suggestion or a remark. On the other hand, Elusive means an intangible thing that is nearly impossible to capture whereas Illusive is simply deception or illusion.

The word ‘Allusive’ is commonly used for a casual remark made without being explicit. This means that it is used for implying a thing or a virtue and not directing orders. Therefore this word is not used in a commanding tone but rather in a general manner of speaking.

Elusive is used in a commanding tone to dictate the non-possibility of doing a task. Something hard can be difficult to complete but something elusive can never be thought of completing. Therefore, Elusive is used for referring to intangible outcomes.

Illusive is just another word for stating non-fiction criteria. This implies something which doesn’t exist or is not real at all. Therefore the word is used while describing a person or thing, which appeared to be real but is non-existential.

Comparison Table Between Allusive, Elusive, and Illusive

Parameters of comparisonAllusiveElusiveIllusive
Meaning Remarking Casually about someone or somethingSomething mentally inconceivable Form of lie that is not real
Base formThe base form of Allusive is AlludeThe base form of Elusive is EludeThe base form of Illusive is Illusion
Latin form meaningAllusive in Latin form means ‘to’Elusive is Latin means to come out of depressionIllusive in Latin refers to deception

First occurrence
“I mimic”“deception”“deception”
Common misspellingAbusiveElasticImmersive

What is Allusive?

The word Allusive originates from the Latin expression “I mock” or “I mimic”. Which means to enact something or someone. Allusive is also used with Latin prefixes as well as in adjective forms. The literal meaning of this word is to refer to anything or simply present a notion related to it. The first use of the word was documented in 1607. 

The word is used in the English Language to a great extent. This means that the chances of this word being present in a general conversation are high. The word is used for reference purposes or denoting things indirectly or in an implicit manner.

The words ‘Indirect’ ‘Implied’ ‘Evocate’ ‘Remindful’ are common synonyms for Allusive. Though these words involve similar meanings. But the replacement of these in sentences is based on the overall meaning or purpose of the conversation. The allusive sentences are used to indirectly convey a message or to give a hint.

 Allusively in an adverb Allusiveness is the noun form of Allusive.

Few examples of sentences showing the use of the word Allusive:

  1. Bankers quote allusive sentences.
  2. Philosophy is an allusive subject.
  3. He does allusive conversations.

What is Elusive?

The word Elusive originates from the Latin ‘eluded’. Which means hard to grasp or confine. The first known use of the word Elusive dates back to 1719. The word Elusive is sometimes confused with the word Illusive. The meaning of Elusive is something difficult to understand or remember.

The word Elusive is an adjective. The use of this word is moderate in native English speakers. This means the presence of this word in general conversation is slightly average. The word is used for things that are tough to understand. Which are qualitative like love and beauty. 

The ‘Evasive’ ‘Slippery’ ‘Shifty’ are commonly used synonyms for Elusive. These words hold the almost same meaning and perception in sentences and can easily replace each other. Also the word Elusive can be used for ‘Difficult’ in English though they are not synonyms. Example: ‘The fish was difficult to catch’ can be written as ‘The fish was elusive to catch’.

Elusively is an adverb and Elusiveness is the noun form of Elusilvely.

Few examples of sentences showing the use of the word Elusive:

  1. The person was elusive to meet.
  2. History is elusive.
  3. That was an elusive job to do.

What is Illusive

The word Illusive originates from Latin ‘Ludere’. Which means to play. The presence of this word in English records since the 17 century. The word Illusive and Elusive is often confused together. The meaning of Illusive is deceptive or something which is not real.

The word Illusive is an adjective in nature. Illusive is a commonly used word in English. Often the conversations involving topics like dreams, deception, or unreal objects have high chances of using of word Illusion. Also, the word Illusory originates from Illusion and has the same meaning.

The words ‘Deceptive’, ‘Delusive’, ‘Delusory’, ‘Imaginary’ are common synonyms for Illusion. These words have a similar tone of use and can be almost replaced based on the situation. The word Illusive can also be used for a person who is fake or unreal in an attribute. Example: He is no billionaire but a fake. Can be written as ‘He is no billionaire but illusive’

Illusively is an adverb and illusiveness is the noun form of Illusive.

A few examples show the use of the word Illusive:

  1. The dreams are elusive.
  2. The magician showed us some illusive acts.
  3. I have an elusive idea

Main Differences Allusive, Elusive and Illusive

  1. Allusive simply means to casually remark about something. Whereas Elusive implies a mentally inconceivable task and Illusive just states an Illusion or deception
  2. Allusive has the origin from the ancient word meaning “I mimic”, whereas Elusive has the ancient origin of deception, while Illusive carries the similar ancient origin deception
  3. Allusive has an adjective base of Allude while Elusive has the adjective base of Elude whereas Illusive carries the adjective base of Illude
  4. Allusive can be confused with abusive, whereas Elusive can be mixed with elastic while Illusive can be mistaken as Immersive
  5. For instance, Allusive can be implied in the sentence- “His conversational tactic is allusive”. Whereas Elusive can be framed in a sentence like “Winning the dance trophy for you is elusive”. Similarly, Illusive can be used in some sentences like-” The whole conspiracy thing is elusive”.


Allusive, Elusive, and Illusive can be categorized as similar-sounding words that carry distinct meanings. This means that each of them can be used for their unique form of attribution. Like stating a fact, doubting it, or simply dismissing it.

These words also amount to a vast usage in the vocabulary of the English Language. This means that the different form of usage of each of these words has a significant contribution to literature pieces. Both fiction and non-fiction.

Moreover, these words are also critical in describing homophones and typically similar sounding words. This explains the relationship of pronunciation with the spelling and sound of the word. Therefore, these words can be used in several examples.

The words can also mean different things when used in a different context. Therefore, one needs to be careful in addressing the context related to these words. However, even in dissimilar contexts, they will carry a unique meaning.


  1. https://cedar.wwu.edu/jec/vol14/iss1/1/
  2. https://kar.kent.ac.uk/2442/1/staehler_illusive_2004.pdf