The writer made an allusive comment, ‘I cannot tell if the rainbow near the elusive Niagara Falls is real or illusive.’

Elusive, illusive and, allusive are three words of the English vocabulary that are confused with each other. All of them are adjectives, have similar pronunciations and people often use illusive when they should be using elusive. The mistake is understandable since illusive and elusive both have a common origin and most sentences would be correct if either one is used. For example, ‘It is an elusive monster’ or ‘it is an illusive monster.’ Illusive is a common word and you can find it used often whereas, elusive and allusive have a rarer usage. Their differences and correct usage are highlighted below.

Elusive vs illusive vs allusive – definitions and meanings

Definition of elusive

Elusive refers to something that is difficult to capture. If the thing is tangible it might be physically difficult for someone to catch it. But if the elusive thing is intangible then it might be mentally inconceivable for someone trying to understand it.

Example sentences of elusive

  • You’re reading an elusive book; shouldn’t you be opting for something easier to read?

The book that is described here is quite difficult to understand so the speaker is making a comment that the reader should pick out something easier to read.

  • This is an elusive case on criminology and lifetime imprisonment.

This sentence tells you that the referred case on criminology and lifetime imprisonment is very difficult to comprehend.

  • Publishing one book every year is still an elusive goal for me.

In this sentence the speaker is saying that getting one book published every year is still a goal that he has yet to obtain.

Definition of illusive

The word illusive is used for something that is not real and completely based on illusion or deception. The thing in question might appear to be real when it is not.

Example sentences of illusive

  • The candlelight caused illusive shadowy monsters to appear on the wall.

This sentence means that the candlelight made unreal monsters appear on the wall which were basically just shadows.

  • When I opened the magic box an illusive light blocked my vision for a split second.

In this sentence the speaker is telling his experience of opening a magic box. When he opened it, an unrealistic light blocked his vision for a split second. It may or may not have been real.

  • An illusive mirage appeared in the desert.

This sentence means that a deceptive mirage appeared in the desert which appeared to be real.

Definition of allusive

The word allusive is used to refer to a statement or remark that is suggestive or implied and not explicit.

Example sentences of allusive

  • The actor’s remarks on the upcoming movie were very allusive and the fans are curiously waiting for its release.

This sentence means that the actor cleverly made only suggestive remarks about the upcoming movie but didn’t give any explicit details, so the fans still have to wait for its release to know the complete information.

  • She made allusive references to the person who caused his mobile to break.

In this sentence the woman made suggestive references to the person who might have caused his mobile phone to break. Notice, that she didn’t provide the exact information because of some reason.

  • The news anchor was very allusive when she interviewed the corrupt politician.

This sentence means that the news anchor questioned the politician very thoroughly suggesting the answers to most of the questions.

Even though it might seem a bit difficult to differentiate these terms at first, you can eventually learn their differences thoroughly. Remember, allusive is usually used when remarks are concerned. Illusive is closely knotted to illusory or illusion so it must be something unreal. And elusive is used when the thing in question is difficult to obtain, grasp, understand or comprehend.