elicit vs. illicit

Lesson: learning the difference between elicit and illicit

elicit: to draw forth or bring out

illicit: not permitted

Here is yet another pair of words that sounds a lot alike but has different meanings. Let’s take a look at some examples to help us figure out the different usages.

elicit examples
Martha’s joke elicited thunderous laughter.

Martha elicits delight every time someone eats her cookies.

Danny has been unable to elicit funding for the cat shelter.

Danny elicited sympathy from the broke animal lovers.

Hint: You can see from the example sentences that elicit involves receiving (or not receiving) something, be it laughter, delight, funding, sympathy, or something else.

illicit examples
The cops arrested Harry because he had an illicit marijuana pipe in his car.

Harry told the cops the illicit drug should be allowed, and he shouted, “Legalize it!”

Fred smuggled an illicit bottle of water into the concert because the venue was selling them for five dollars.

The security guards threw Fred out of the concert because he was taking illicit photos of ladies in the bathroom.

Hint: You can see from the example sentences that illicit describes things that are against the rules.

Test your skills with this quiz. Fill in either elicit or illicit in the blanks. The answers are at the bottom.

1. The child hid an ________ piece of candy in his pocket.
2. Randy was in tears because he did not _______ approval from the nominating committee.
3. Hank was being charged for having _______ material on his computer’s hard drive.
4. The mouse managed to _______ a howl from the cat when he startled it.

1. illicit 2. elicit 3. illicit 4. elicit