Thursday, March 10, 2016

Language of Confusion: -Lude

I actually did words that end in -clude last year, namely conclude, preclude, include and seclude. So now we’re doing words that are just -lude. I wonder if there’s any etymological relation! Ha ha, just kidding. I’m sure there isn’t.

Elude first showed up in the mid sixteenth century meaning delude or a make a fool of, not meaning evade until a century later. It comes from the classical Latin eludere, parry or evade. It’s a mix of the prefix ex-, out, and ludere, play—the origin word for ludicrous. No, not Ludacris. That’s something else entirely. Anyway, I’m not really sure about the evolution from play + out to evasion. Maybe because if you outplay someone you’re evading them?

Next, delude, which has a very similar history. It showed up in the early fifteenth century from the classical Latin deludere, which could mean “to play false”, to trifle with, or to mock or deceive. The de- prefix here means down in a metaphorical sense. I guess playing down at someone is deluding them. It almost makes sense.

Prelude showed up at about the same time elude did, in the mid sixteenth century. It actually comes from the Middle French prelude, which meant an instrumental prelude. Before that it was the Medieval Latin  preludium, preliminary, and classical Latin praeludere, play before for practice or preface. The prae- is pre-, before, making this one literally “play before”. Okay, now this one definitely makes sense. It’s a miracle! And it’s the same with interlude, where inter- just means between, so it’s between the play.

Collude showed up in the early sixteenth century, but collusion showed up even earlier, in the late fourteenth century. Collude comes from the classical Latin colludere, play with, while collusion has a bit longer of a journey. It comes from the Old French collusion and classical Latin collusionem, collusion. But that word just comes from colludere, a mix of the prefix com-, together. So when you’re colluding with someone, you’re playing together. Sure.

Finally today, we’re looking at allude. Like most of the words here, it showed up in the mid sixteenth century, coming from the Middle French alluder and classical Latin alludere, which meant allude in the figurative sense but also to play or joke in a more literal one. The prefix comes from ad-, to, so it’s to to play. Or to play to? Either way, I’m not really sure how one leads to the allude we know…



  1. A lot of playing around back then, wasn't there?

  2. Delude would apply to many a supporter of a certain thin skinned full of himself presidential hopeful.

  3. I can kind of see how delude and elude could mean the same thing. But then again, it's been a long day...

  4. Interesting. I use some of these -lude words all the time and never really thought about them.


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