Elicit or Illicit?

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Elicit or Illicit?

What is the difference between "elicit" and "illicit"?
  • To elicit means to draw out or to obtain (usually information). For example:
    • Act like you're his friend in order to elicit more information.
  • Illicit means illegal. For example:
    • We found thousands of cartons of illicit cigarettes.
elicit or illicit?

Elicit and Illicit

The words "elicit" and "illicit" sound similar, but their meanings are very different.


The verb "to elicit" means to obtain. It has the connotation of actively obtaining something (usually information). It can often be translated as to draw out, to extract, to obtain information, to deduce, or to construe.

  • Have a chat with the boss at lunch and see what information you can elicit.
  • (See what information you can extract.)
  • His questioning sought to elicit the conclusion reached before the hearing began.
  • (His questioning sought to draw out the conclusion.)
  • Fog always seems to elicit strong feelings of melancholy.
  • (Fog always seems to draw out strong feelings.)


The adjective "illicit" means illegal or contrary to accepted morality (i.e., naughty).

  • The act seeks to prevent the illicit trafficking of narcotics.
  • We have been told to expect a purge on illicit file-sharing web sites.
Top Tip

Elicit Means Extract
Let the first letter of elicit remind you that it means extract.

Illicit Means Illegal
Let the first three letters of illicit remind you that it means illegal.

Common Terms with "Elicit" and "Illicit"

Common terms with "elicit":
  • elicit a response
  • elicit a reaction
  • elicit an emotion
  • elicit information
  • elicit knowledge
Common terms with "illicit":
  • illicit affair
  • illicit auction
  • illicit cigarettes
  • illicit drugs
  • illicit relationship
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See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose? What are nouns? What are verbs? List of easily confused words