adjective il·lic·it \ (ˌ)i(l)-ˈli-sət \
|Updated on: 12 Jul 2018

Definition of illicit

: not permitted : unlawful



Examples of illicit in a Sentence

  1. The wedding is mounted in traditional Punjabi style, but underneath the formal fanfare simmer dysfunctional-family tensions, deep dark secrets,  … and illicit affairs. —David AnsenNewsweek4 Mar. 2002
  2. "Thank you, Lieutenant," she said, bowing her head, just as she might in everyday, civilian life, and I felt suddenly illicit in her presence, as though we'd slipped out of sight of our chaperons … —Chang-rae LeeA Gesture Life1999
  3. The companies that carry cellular … have adopted a number of monitoring techniques to detect illicit calls … —Paul WallichScientific AmericanMarch 1994
  4. He was arrested for selling illicit copies of the software.

  5. She had an illicit affair with her boss.

Recent Examples of illicit from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'illicit.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Illicit and elicit

Illicit, while not exactly an everyday word, is far more common than its antonym, licit ("not forbidden by law, permissible"). Perhaps this is a function of our oft-noted fascination with bad behavior and boredom with rectitude. In any case, illicit may be used of behavior that is either unlawful or immoral. These categories frequently overlap, but they are not always synonymous, as some unlawful activities (illicit cigarette smoking) may not be considered immoral, while some immoral activities (an illicit affair) are not illegal. Illicit is occasionally confused with elicit because of the similarity in their pronunciations, but the two words have decidedly different meanings and functions: in contemporary English, elicit is a verb meaning "to get (a response, information, etc.) from someone," while illicit appears solely as an adjective.

Origin and Etymology of illicit

Latin illicitus, from in- + licitus lawful — more at licit

ILLICIT Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of illicit for English Language Learners

  • : not allowed by law : unlawful or illegal

  • : involving activities that are not considered morally acceptable

ILLICIT Defined for Kids


adjective il·lic·it \ i-ˈli-sət \

Definition of illicit for Students

: not permitted : unlawful

Law Dictionary


adjective il·lic·it \ il-ˈli-sət \

legal Definition of illicit

: not permitted : unlawful
  • an illicit motive to defeat or evade the taxes
  • In re Haas, 48 F.3d 1153 (1995)

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