elude (v.) = 1530s, "delude, make a fool of," from Latin eludere "finish play, win at play; escape from or parry (a blow), make a fool of, mock, frustrate; win from at play," from assimilated form of ex- "out, away" (see ex-) + ludere "to play" (see ludicrous). Sense of "evade" is first recorded 1610s in a figurative sense, 1630s in a literal one. [...]

How did the 2 bolded morphemes combine to mean the modern definition of 'elude'?

Please help me dig deeper than the definition, which I already understand and so ask NOT about. Please expose and explain this etymology's (hidden and missing) semantic drifts and links, which I struggle to connect. What are some right ways of interpreting the etymology, to understand how the semantic jumps abstracted and severed from the original literal meaning? What bridges the jumps with the original?

  • Some right ways? – Edwin Ashworth Jun 17 '15 at 8:25
  • You imply that different views on the true etymology may be correct. Only one (at most) can be (though it may not be known which one). – Edwin Ashworth Jun 17 '15 at 16:37
  • @EdwinAshworth Thanks. I overlooked that error; I'll fix it for futurity. – NNOX Apps Jun 17 '15 at 17:09
  • How are these even disconnected in literal meaning? Maybe you only think of "play" being sweet and innocent, when it can be more? "I played (or played out) inspector Doe by misdirecting him" "i eluded inspector Doe by misdirecting him" – user662852 Oct 15 '15 at 11:06

The prefix "out-" can be found in many contexts in English where it means "to do better (than an opponent)", as in, you can "outrun", "outwit" or "outdo" someone.


elude -> parry a blow -> avoid a blow -> avoid a blow by fooling one's opponent -> avoid enough blows by fooling one's opponent and so defeat him -> mock the loser for being fooled into not being able to land a blow

However plausible, how this chain of thought actually came about is unknown because those are the connotations the Romans gave to eludere. In other words, I think English usage is the wrong place to look. English adopted the Latin meanings.

  • Thanks, but please enlarge on the semantic drift elude -> parry a blow. How did the 2 bolded morphemes in my OP, combine to mean 'parry a blow'? – NNOX Apps Jun 22 '15 at 2:19

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