Both inevitable and ineluctable are words in the dictionary that mean something is impossible to avoid.

So do we use them in a same or different context?

  • 1
    This might be a better question for ELU. I doubt many people know or use "ineluctable".
    – user3169
    Nov 23, 2015 at 2:54
  • @user3169 - Considering these are synonyms, with one obscure and the other in wide use, I don't know why this would need to be answered on ELU. I think snailboat handled this pretty well. I imagine it's tough for a learner to find synonyms in a dictionary or thesaurus and be able to tell if a synonym is common (such as unavoidable) or obscure (like ineluctable). ELL seems like a good place to make such inquiries.
    – J.R.
    Nov 23, 2015 at 9:33

2 Answers 2


The biggest differences are frequency and register:

  1. Inevitable is about a hundred times more common than ineluctable.
  2. Inevitable is neutral or slightly formal, while ineluctable is very formal and sounds quite literary.

Prioritization is very important in language learning. Inevitable is a much more important word for most learners to know. There are native speakers who don't know what ineluctable means.

In terms of meaning, there's a lot of overlap, and I think you could often use either word without a change in meaning. But I think ineluctable is often closer in meaning to inescapable, and tends to be used figuratively for inescapable conclusions, facts we can't avoid acknowledging, and so forth.

  • And then there's unavoidable. Too many words, as the child said.
    – BobRodes
    Nov 23, 2015 at 3:59
  • After looking at polling data, some people thought Bill Clinton was ineluctable – which was kind of funny, because other people thought he was unelectable. ;^)
    – J.R.
    Nov 23, 2015 at 9:29

The question asks about context. In terms of context, I've only seen it used once, and I think the person using it did so because the subject had to do with a logical conclusion. The etymology says it means you can not escape through struggling, which makes me think of spider's webs, quick-sand, or any trap that tightens when you struggle. One of the examples I see is the sun rising everyday, but there is little in that to support the concept of struggling against it. This seems to be one of those words that, unless you have a very good reason to use it, is archaic enough that it should be avoided, as other words are more common, better understood, and serve to convey the same meaning in the majority of uses.

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