Word Confusion: Elicit versus Illicit

Posted April 10, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 17 February 2018

Yep, I want some illicit behavior here, and by that I mean that I want to get naughty. Yup. Uh-huh. Now, it may be that I have elicited a response from you with that phrasing. And what are you thinking??

Mmmm-hmmm, I thought so…

Below you’ll discover that even though this pair of word confusions are heterographs, elicit is a verb while illicit is an adjective. Two different types of grammar.

I could not resist this example when it cropped up in a book I was reading:
Consider the following:
The original from the book… …should have been
“Who didn’t suffer recriminations after having elicit sex with a man…?”

I feel as though we’re missing an “ed” on that elicit, making this sentence mean that whoever was doing the asking was feeling guilty about asking. Or maybe she was going to be punished for asking a man to have sex with her?

“Who didn’t suffer recriminations after having illicit sex with a man…?”

Feeling guilty about having wrongful sex.

Okay, getting serious for a sec’, I was hoping to illicit a laugh, oops, I mean elicit — since I wanted to get a rise out of ya—*giggle*. Now go on out there to face the day and laugh a bit while you’re at it.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

If you found this post on “Elicit versus Illicit” interesting, consider tweeting it to your friends. Subscribe to KD Did It, if you’d like to track this post for future updates.

Return to top

Elicit Illicit
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

“Bacon” courtesy of I Love Funny Dogs.com.

I loved the caption on this:
“Wait a minute! Who gave you bacon?”
And doesn’t that elicit a response from you…!

Just Your Average Swedish Street Race. Lamborghini Diablo vs. Volvo 142” courtesy of Christoffer Johansson, via Flickr.

What you’ll get to see at [illicit] Swedish street races.

Part of Grammar:
Verb, transitive

Third person present verb: elicits
Past tense or past participle: elicited
Gerund or present participle: eliciting

Evoke or draw out a response/answer/fact from someone in reaction to one’s own actions or questions

[Archaic] Draw forth (something that is latent or potential) into existence

Forbidden by law, rules, or custom
Puppies generally elicit oohs and ahs from people.

My declaration was intended to elicit a response from him.

He was dealing in illicit drugs.

Prostitution is an illicit business in most countries.

Marijuana is still illicit in most states.

Adjective: nonelicited, unelicited
Noun: elicitation, elicitor
Adverb: illicitly
Noun: illicitness
History of the Word:
Mid-17th century from the Latin elicit- meaning drawn out by trickery or magic, which is from the verb elicere, from e-, a variant of ex-, (out) + lacere (entice, deceive). Early 16th century from the French, or from the Latin illicitus, in + licitus

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

Return to top

Pinterest Photo Credits:

Prostitutes in London Offer Sex for £15 is from an article in The Telegraph.

Kathy's KD Did It signature