Explicit or Implicit?

What Is the Difference between "Explicit" and "Implicit"?

homesitemapA-Z confused words explicit or implicit?
"Explicit" and "implicit" are easy to confuse because they are similar-looking words with close meanings.
  • "Explicit" means direct or clearly expressed. For example:
    • His demand was explicit. He wants a pay rise. correct tick
  • "Implicit" means implied or expressed indirectly. For example:
    • His demand was implicit. He hinted at a pay rise. correct tick
explicit or implicit?

More about "Explicit" and "Implicit"

Occasionally, there is confusion over the adjectives "explicit" and "implicit." They sound similar, but there is a distinction with their meanings.


The adjective "explicit" means "precisely and clearly expressed."

Example sentence with "explicit":
  • The answer is no. My statement was explicit. correct tick
  • The law was explicit in whose tax rates were to be raised. correct tick
  • Marathon runners set explicit goals. correct tick
The word "explicit" can usually be replaced with "clear."

The Meaning of "Explicit Sexual Content"

When used in terms like "explicit sexual content" or "explicit violent material," "explicit" means clearly visible (i.e. not suggested). For example:
  • The new advertisement contains explicit sexual material.
  • (This means that the advertisement contains actual sex scenes.)
By contrast, terms like "implicit sexual content" or "implicit violent material" mean that the sex or violence is implied, not actually shown.


The adjective "implicit" means implied or suggested.

Example sentence with "implicit":
  • There is always an implicit threat of violence. correct tick
  • The attention on young middle class protestors was far less direct but often implicit. correct tick
  • A piece of advice always contains an implicit threat, just as a threat always contains an implicit piece of advice. correct tick (Writer Jose Bergamin)
The word "implicit" can usually be replaced with "implied."

Remembering "Implicit"

Let the i in "implicit" remind you of "indirect" or "implied."

"Explicitly" and "Implicitly"

The adverbs "explicitly" and "implicitly" are common. They are typically used with verbs of attribution like "to say," "to state," and "to ask." For example:
  • John explicitly asked for a pay rise. correct tick
  • (This means John literally asked for a pay rise.)
  • John implicitly asked for a pay rise. correct tick
  • (This means John hinted at getting a pay rise, i.e., indirectly asked for one.)
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This page was written by Craig Shrives.

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