illicit

adjective
il·​lic·​it | \ (ˌ)i(l)-ˈli-sət \

Definition of illicit

: not permitted : unlawful

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from illicit

illicitly adverb

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.

Examples of illicit in a Sentence

The wedding is mounted in traditional Punjabi style, but underneath the formal fanfare simmer dysfunctional-family tensions, deep dark secrets,  … and illicit affairs. — David Ansen, Newsweek, 4 Mar. 2002 "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 Lee, A Gesture Life, 1999 The companies that carry cellular … have adopted a number of monitoring techniques to detect illicit calls … — Paul Wallich, Scientific American, March 1994 He was arrested for selling illicit copies of the software. She had an illicit affair with her boss.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

The convictions ranged from operating NGOs without a license to the illicit use of foreign funds. Jared Malsin, WSJ, "Egypt Acquits NGO Workers in Case That Strained Relations with U.S.," 20 Dec. 2018 Nissan has said an internal investigation found three types of misconduct: underreporting income to financial authorities, using investment funds for personal gain and illicit use of company expenses. Yuri Kageyama, The Seattle Times, "Detention of Nissan’s Ghosn extended through Dec. 20," 11 Dec. 2018 Before the internet, the international trade in child pornography was unquestionably a customs matter, since illicit photos, magazines, and videos were shipped across borders as physical items. Shawn Musgrave, The Verge, "How ICE used an obscure rule to pursue the owners of a Korean porn site," 27 Sep. 2018 Obviously, there are tons of really good mascaras out there that don't have illicit names. Sable Yong, Allure, "Why Are Mascara Names So Damn Thirsty?," 25 Sep. 2018 The belief is that the wafer would be less prone than pills to being diverted for illicit use. Dylan Scott, Vox, "The week’s 4 most important health care stories," 7 Sep. 2018 Across the country more than 55 people have died in the outbreak, which is associated with homelessness and illicit drug use. Shari Rudavsky, Indianapolis Star, "Indiana sees first death in multi-state hepatitis A outbreak," 11 July 2018 Published in JAMA Network Open, the study looked not at illicit opioid use, but at prescriptions administered to Medicare Part D enrollees. Adam K. Raymond, Daily Intelligencer, "Places With High Opioid Use Favored Trump in 2016, Study Says," 22 June 2018 But as that success story has unfolded, MRSA infections tied to illicit drug use have risen. NBC News, "Superbug infections rising among injection drug users," 8 June 2018

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.

See More

First Known Use of illicit

1506, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for illicit

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about illicit

Statistics for illicit

Last Updated

11 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for illicit

The first known use of illicit was in 1506

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for illicit

illicit

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of illicit

: not allowed by law : unlawful or illegal

: involving activities that are not considered morally acceptable

illicit

adjective
il·​lic·​it | \ i-ˈli-sət \

Kids Definition of illicit

: not permitted : unlawful

illicit

adjective
il·​lic·​it | \ il-ˈli-sət \

Legal Definition of illicit

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on illicit

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with illicit

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for illicit

Spanish Central: Translation of illicit

Nglish: Translation of illicit for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of illicit for Arabic Speakers

Comments on illicit

What made you want to look up illicit? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

a complex dispute or argument

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Homophone Quiz

  • three-bears-two-of-them-look-like-theyre-whispering-to-a-third-bear-who-looks-chuffed-to-be-the-center-of-attention
  • In order to judge how people felt, the senator's office hired a firm to take a ______.
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!