elicit vs. illicit

What is the difference between elicit and illicit?

The word elicit is only ever a verb meaning “to evoke, provoke, give rise to, or bring to light,” as in:
  • “The announcement elicited laughter from the audience.”
  • “I tried to elicit a confession from him, but he remained resolute in his silence.”
Illicit, which is pronounced the same way as elicit (/ɪˈlɪsɪt/), is an adjective meaning “illegal, improper, or not permitted by moral or ethical customs.” For example:
  • “The major achievements from her time in office were marred by allegations of illicit deals with major businesses.”
  • “The illicit practice has steadily been gaining ground, with many hoping for legalization in the near future.”

Spelling Tricks and Tips

Here are two quick mnemonic tips to remember the difference between these two terms:
  • Elicit is a verb, so it is spelled with an E.
  • Illicit generally means illegal, so it begins with ill-.
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