Elicit or Illicit?

What Is the Difference between "Elicit" and "Illicit"?

"Elicit" and "illicit" are easy to confuse because they sound so similar (i.e., they are nearly homonyms).
  • Elicit. "Elicit" means to draw out or to obtain (usually information). For example:
    • Act like you're his friend in order to elicit more information. correct tick
  • Illicit "Illicit" means illegal. For example:
    • We found thousands of cartons of illicit cigarettes. correct tick
elicit or illicit?

More about "Elicit" and "Illicit"


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.

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


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

Example sentences with "illicit":
  • The act seeks to prevent the illicit trafficking of narcotics. correct tick
  • We have been told to expect a purge on illicit file-sharing web sites. correct tick

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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This page was written by Craig Shrives.