Illicit vs. Elicit

Illicit Activities!Sorry I’ve been a little…absent…lately. I’ve been completely inundated with schoolwork for the past week and probably will be for the next two weeks. However, trying to be the wonderful little blogger that I am, I’ve managed to squeeze in some time to do a post about illicit and elicit. Let’s be frank, these words are very easy to mix up. As a matter of fact, my husband mentioned how a coworker mixed these up for an important presentation. Nothing like hearing your company is doing illicit activity! Read on to see what the person SHOULD have said.


Illicit is always an adjective. Always. It describes a noun and refers to illegal activities. A good way to remember this is by looking at the beginning of the words–“Ill.” ILLicit activity is ILLegal activity. Nice trick, right? Let’s look at an example:

She was arrested for shoplifting and other illicit activities.

In this case, “activities” is a noun and illicit describes it. Essentially, it says that she was doing illegal things OTHER than just shoplifting. (For shame!)


While illicit is always an adjective, elicit is always a verb. It essentially means “to draw out.” No fancy trick to remember here–just remember that it’s a verb! 😉 Here’s an example:

The interviewer elicited an emotional response from the mother.

In this case, the person who was talking to the mother must have said something that “drew out” an emotional response. There is an assumption that the mother was not emotional before this point.

Final thoughts

If you can remember that illicit=illegal, you should be well on your way to keeping these two words straight. Also remember that illicit is an adjective and elicit is a verb. Good luck!

Posted in Grammar Quick Fix.

One Comment

  1. Looooooove this site Kelly! So glad you plugged it on WAR Alliance podcast before you left (only just got around to listening to that episode).

Comments are closed.