Elicit vs Illicit in English: Understanding the Difference

Elicit vs. illicit

In English language, many words sound similar or have the same roots, but they carry different meanings. If you are a non-native speaker of English, you may find some words confusing and tricky to use. These words are often misused or interchanged, which can result in a communication breakdown. It’s important to understand the nuances of each word to communicate effectively. Two such words that often create confusion are ‘elicit’ and ‘illicit.’ In this article, we will delve into the origin, definition, and examples of these words to help you understand the difference between them.

Origin and Evolution of ‘Elicit’

‘Elicit’ originates from the Latin word ‘elicere,’ which means to ‘draw out.’ The word entered the English language in the mid-17th century. Initially, ‘elicit’ was used in a general sense to mean ‘to draw out’ or ‘to bring to light.’ Over time, it became more specific and took on a connotation of eliciting a response or reaction from someone.

Definition of ‘Elicit’

‘Elicit’ means to draw out or evoke a reaction or response from someone or something. It can also refer to bringing something to light or discovering something through questioning or investigation.


Origin and Evolution of ‘Illicit’

‘Illicit’ also has Latin roots, coming from the word ‘illicitus,’ which means ‘not allowed.’ The word entered the English language in the early 16th century. ‘Illicit’ was originally used in a legal sense to refer to something that was not authorized by law. Over time, the meaning of the word has expanded to include anything that is deemed morally or socially unacceptable.


Definition of ‘Illicit’

‘Illicit’ means something that is not permitted or authorized by law, rules, or custom. It can also refer to something that is considered morally or socially unacceptable.


Difference between ‘Elicit’ and ‘Illicit’

‘Elicit’ and ‘illicit’ are often confused because of their similar sounds, but they have different meanings. ‘Elicit’ refers to the act of drawing out something or evoking a response, while ‘illicit’ refers to something that is prohibited or considered unacceptable by law, rules, or custom.


Examples of ‘Elicit’ in Sentences

  • The survey was conducted to elicit customer feedback on the new product.
  • The marketing campaign was designed to elicit interest in the brand.
  • The defense attorney tried to elicit a confession from the witness.
  • The prosecutor sought to elicit a response from the defendant during cross-examination.
  • The therapist asked probing questions to elicit the patient’s feelings about their past.
  • The art therapy session was designed to elicit emotions and feelings.

Examples of ‘illicit’ in Sentences

  • The police found illicit drugs in the suspect’s possession.
  • The hacker gained access to the company’s network through illicit means.
  • The government has launched a campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of illicit drug use.
  • The athlete was banned from competition for using illicit performance-enhancing drugs.


Tips to Remember the Difference Between ‘Elicit’ and ‘Illicit’

One way to remember the difference between these words is to associate ‘elicit’ with ‘extract’ or ‘evoke.’ On the other hand, ‘illicit’ can be associated with ‘illegal’ or ‘prohibited.’

The Bottom Line

In summary, ‘elicit’ and ‘illicit’ are two words that are often confused in the English language. Understanding the difference between these words is crucial for effective communication. ‘Elicit’ means to draw out or evoke a response, while ‘illicit’ refers to something that is prohibited or considered socially or morally unacceptable.


Frequently Asked Questions


What is the opposite of ‘elicit’?

The opposite of ‘elicit’ is ‘suppress.’

What is an example of ‘illicit’ love?

An example of ‘illicit’ love is a romantic relationship between two people who are married to others.

Can ‘elicit’ be used as a noun?

Yes, ‘elicit’ can be used as a noun in the context of eliciting something.

What is the synonym of ‘illicit’?

The synonyms of ‘illicit’ include illegal, unlawful, prohibited, and unauthorized.

Are ‘elicit’ and ‘solicit’ interchangeable?

No, ‘elicit’ and ‘solicit’ are not interchangeable. ‘Elicit’ means to draw out or evoke a response, while ‘solicit’ means to ask for something in a formal or urgent manner.

Pair of Words

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