Journal of a graduate student in military history and the American Civil War

Military history word of the day: élan

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A favorite word of mine, élan, is used in discussion of the way soldiers carry themselves. Here is an example:

They distinguished themselves by behaving with aggressiveness, courage and élan, albeit being at times difficult to restrain.

The good folks at Princeton provide the following definition:


1. a feeling of strong eagerness (usually in favor of a person or cause); “they were imbued with a revolutionary ardor”; “he felt a kind of religious zeal” [syn: ardor]
2. distinctive and stylish elegance; “he wooed her with the confident dash of a cavalry officer” [syn: dash]
3. enthusiastic and assured vigor and liveliness; “a performance of great elan and sophistication”

The origins of the word élan are provided from Online Etymology Dictionary as follows:

1877, from Fr. élan, from élancer “to rush, dart,” from O.Fr. elancer, from e- “out” + lancer “to throw a lance,” from L.L. lanceare, from L. lancea “lance.”

elan. Dictionary.com. WordNet® 3.0. Princeton University. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/elan (accessed: June 08, 2008).
elan. Dictionary.com. Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/elan (accessed: June 08, 2008).

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Written by Rene Tyree

June 9, 2008 at 8:44 pm

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