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Elicit and Illicit

The Quick Answer
What is the difference between elicit and illicit?
  • To elicit means to draw out or to obtain (usually information).
  • Illicit means illegal.

Elicit and Illicit

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

Elicit

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.

Examples:
  • 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.)

Illicit

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

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