Understanding Elision: Definition, Examples, and Usage Tips
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 6 min read


  1. What is elision?
  2. How to identify elision
  3. Examples of elision
  4. Why elision matters
  5. Usage tips for elision

Imagine you're sipping a warm mug of cocoa, curled up on your favorite armchair, and engrossed in a book. Suddenly, you come across a word that seems to have a missing bit—like 'ne'er' for 'never' or 'I'm' for 'I am.' What's going on here? Well, you've stumbled upon a fascinating linguistic process called elision. In today's blog, we'll shine a spotlight on the definition of elision, share some examples, and give you a handful of usage tips. Ready to dive in?

What is elision?

Elision is a linguistic phenomenon we encounter more often than you might think. You know those moments when you're in a hurry and words seem to tumble out a bit too fast? Or when you're trying to add a bit of rhythm to your speech? That's when elision comes into play. It's the process of dropping a sound or syllable in a word, often to make speech flow more smoothly.

Definition of Elision

The definition of elision, as per the dictionary, is the omission of a sound or syllable when speaking. Let's break it down:

  • Omission: This is simply another word for leaving something out. In the case of elision, we're dropping a sound or syllable.
  • Sound or syllable: These are the building blocks of our words. A sound can be a single letter, whereas a syllable is a unit of speech made up of one or more spoken sounds.
  • When speaking: Elision isn't just a written phenomenon—it happens when we talk, too. If you've ever said "I'm" instead of "I am," you've used elision.

The Origin of Elision

Elision has been around as long as language itself. It's not just an English thing, either. You'll find examples of elision in French, Spanish, Italian—you name it. The term "elision" comes from the Latin word "elidere," which means 'to strike out.' Just as you might strike out a task on your to-do list, in elision, we strike out a sound or syllable.

Types of Elision

You might be surprised to learn that there are several types of elision. Here are a few:

  1. Vowel Elision: This happens when we drop a vowel from a word. For example, 'camera' might become 'cam'ra.'
  2. Consonant Elision: This is when we drop a consonant. 'Friend' might turn into 'frien'.'
  3. Syllable Elision: This is when we drop a whole syllable. 'Chocolate' often becomes 'choc'late' in casual speech.

Now that we've got a solid understanding of the definition of elision, let's explore some examples and see why it matters in our everyday communication.

How to identify elision

Identifying elision isn't as tricky as you might think. All you need is a keen ear and a basic understanding of the words you're listening to or reading. Below, we'll look at a few ways you can spot elision in action.

Listen for Missing Sounds

One of the most straightforward ways to identify elision is to listen for missing sounds in spoken words. Remember that elision involves dropping a sound or syllable, so if a word sounds shorter or different than you expect, you might be dealing with elision. For instance, if someone says 'gonna' instead of 'going to', that's elision!

Read Aloud

Another way to spot elision is by reading text aloud. Sometimes, what seems correct on paper may sound different when spoken, revealing elision. For example, the word 'interesting' often becomes 'inter'sting' in casual speech, but you might not notice this elision unless you say the word out loud.

Word Context

Context can also help you identify elision. If a sentence doesn't quite make sense, or a spoken word seems odd, check for elision. For example, in the phrase "I can't 'member," the word 'remember' has been shortened through elision.

Look for Apostrophes

Apostrophes can be a big giveaway when it comes to identifying elision in written language. They often signal that a sound or syllable has been omitted. Think of words like "don't," "she's," and "we'll"—all examples of elision.

With these tips in your toolbox, you should be well-equipped to spot elision in your daily conversations and readings. Next, let's move on to some specific examples of elision in use.

Examples of elision

Now that we've covered how to identify elision, let's dive into some concrete examples. Remember, the definition of elision is the omission of a sound or syllable in speech. It's often used to make language sound more fluid or informal. Here are a few examples you might recognize from everyday language.

Common English Examples

In English, elision is frequently used in our everyday conversations. Here are a few examples:

  • "I'm" instead of "I am"
  • "Don't" instead of "do not"
  • "It's" instead of "it is"

Did you spot the elision in these examples? In each case, a sound or syllable has been left out to make the word or phrase easier to say.

Colloquial Language

Elision also appears often in colloquial language, or the informal language we use in everyday conversation. Here are a few examples:

  • "Gonna" instead of "going to"
  • "Wanna" instead of "want to"
  • "Coulda" instead of "could have"

Again, you can see how elision makes these phrases quicker and easier to say, which is why they're so common in casual speech.

Poetry and Song Lyrics

Elision isn't just for everyday language—it's also a handy tool in poetry and songwriting. By omitting certain sounds or syllables, poets and songwriters can make their lines flow better and fit a certain rhythm or rhyme scheme. For example, in the Beatles song "A Hard Day's Night," the title is actually an elision of "A Hard Day is Night."

As you can see, elision is everywhere once you start looking for it! It's a natural part of our language and communication, and understanding it can enrich your appreciation of both. Next, let's explore why elision matters so much.

Why elision matters

At this point, you might be thinking, "Okay, I understand the definition of elision and I've seen some examples. But why does this actually matter?" That's a great question! Let's break down a few reasons why elision is more than just a fancy linguistic term—it's a key component of effective communication.

Efficiency in Communication

First and foremost, elision helps us communicate more efficiently. By leaving out certain sounds or syllables, we can say more with fewer words and less effort. This can be particularly useful in fast-paced conversations, or when you're trying to get a point across quickly. For instance, saying "I'm" instead of "I am" may seem like a small difference, but it adds up over the course of a conversation!

Creating a Casual Tone

Elision can also help set a casual, informal tone in your speech or writing. Using contractions like "don't" or "it's" can make your language sound more relaxed and approachable. So, if you're writing an email to a friend or having a casual chat, using elision can make your communication feel more natural and friendly.

Artistic Expression

Finally, elision is an important tool in artistic expression, particularly in poetry and songwriting. By manipulating the sounds and syllables in their words, artists can create rhythms and rhymes that make their work more engaging and memorable. For example, using elision in song lyrics can help them fit the melody or rhythm of the song, resulting in a more harmonious and catchy tune.

In conclusion, understanding and using elision can enhance your communication skills, whether you're having a casual chat, writing an email, or penning a poem. Next, let's look at some practical usage tips for elision that you can start applying today.

Usage Tips for Elision

Now that we've explored the definition of elision and why it matters, let's move on to some practical tips for using it in your everyday communication.

Keep it Natural

First and foremost, elision should feel natural. If you're speaking or writing in English, chances are you're already using elision without even realizing it. Phrases like "I'll" for "I will", or "they're" for "they are" are common examples. You don't need to force it—just let your language flow naturally, and elision will happen organically.

Consider Your Audience

Next, consider your audience. While elision can make your language sound more casual and friendly, it may not always be appropriate. For example, if you're writing a formal letter or speaking in a professional setting, you might want to limit your use of elision. Remember, the goal is clear and effective communication—so always keep your audience in mind.

Play with Words

Lastly, don't be afraid to play with words! Elision is particularly useful in creative writing, where bending and blending words can create interesting rhythms and rhymes. If you're writing a poem or a song, experiment with elision. You might be surprised at the unique expressions you can create.

In a nutshell, elision is a powerful tool in your communication kit. By applying these tips, you can use elision effectively to enhance your speech and writing, adding efficiency, casualness, and creativity. And remember, the key to mastering elision—like any linguistic tool—is practice. So go out there and start using elision today!

While elision can be a valuable tool in writing, it's also important to consider storytelling techniques in other creative fields, like illustration. If you're interested in taking your storytelling skills to the next level, check out Mirelle Ortega's workshop, 'Storytelling In Illustration.' This workshop will provide you with unique insights and tips on how to convey stories effectively through the art of illustration.