Difference Between Elicit and Illicit

Main Difference – Elicit vs Illicit

Elicit and illicit are another pair of words that sounds a lot alike but has different meanings. However, many English speakers across the globe find it a challenge to distinguish between these two words. The main difference between elicit and illicit is that elicit means to draw out or evoke whereas illicit means to forbid by law.

Elicit – Meaning and Usage

Elicit is a transitive verb which refers to drawing out or evoking something. Elicit can also mean obtaining information. When the police interrogate a suspect, they are trying to elicit information about the crime.

Eliciting a response from someone means drawing out a response someone. Elicit can also refer to evoking a reaction from someone. Feelings of pity, sympathy, interest, amusement, etc. are also related to elicit. When a comedian tells a good joke, he elicits laughter from the audience. Likewise, a sad film elicits feelings of gloom and melancholy.

 Look at the following sentences to understand the meaning of this verb better.

His not so innocent joke elicited thunderous laughter. 

They interrogated the suspect repeatedly in order to elicit some vital information.

She tried to elicit their sympathy by lying about her family.

They hoped this new evidence will elicit more information.

This painting elicits strong feelings of melancholy.

We couldn’t elicit a response from her, no matter how hard we tried.

Her photographs elicited an enormous public response.

Difference Between Elicit and Illicit

This painting elicits feelings of gloom and melancholy.

Illicit – Meaning and Usage

Illicit is an adjective. Illicit is similar in meaning to forbidden. But it can basically have two meanings: to be not allowed or prohibited by law or to be unaccepted or unapproved by the society. Illicit can be synonymous with illegal, unlawful, banned, etc.

To be forbidden by law

Drugs are illicit and illegal because they do incredible harm.

He was arrested for selling illicit copies of software.

She was charged for having illicit material on his computer.

He was thrown out of the premises because he was taking illicit photos of the ladies.

Main Difference - Elicit vs  Illicit

He was arrested for illicit trade of antiquities.

Unaccepted or not approved by moral and social standards

She had an illicit affair with her boss.

The book focuses too much on illicit sex and murder.

The media exposed the illicit affair between the politician and his married secretary.

Through the year, he continued his illicit affair with a married woman.

Difference Between Elicit and Illicit

Grammatical Category

Elicit is a verb.

Illicit is an adjective.


Elicit refers to obtaining information from someone or evoking or drawing out a particular reaction.

Illicit means forbidden by law or unacceptable by moral standards.Difference Between Elicit and Illicit - infographic

Image Courtesy:

“Gloomy day” by Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1526/1530–1569) – Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork, (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia 

“Arrest icon” by Abu badali, – Own work based on: Aiga’s icons.This vector image was created with Inkscape.(CC BY-SA 2.5) via Commons Wikimedia 

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