illicit

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

Definition of illicit

: not permitted : unlawful

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Specifically, that includes on-the-ground harm reduction measures, such as naloxone (which can reverse opioid overdoses) and fentanyl test strips, as well as basic education for people taking these drugs in both prescription and illicit contexts. Sarah Jacoby, SELF, "Fentanyl Now Officially Causes the Most Drug Overdose Deaths in the U.S.," 20 Dec. 2018 Over time, that decline may translate to a drop in overdose deaths, since prescription or illicit opioids were involved in 66% of all lethal overdoses in 2016, according to CDC data. Jamie Ducharme, Fortune, "Americans Are Filling Way Fewer Opioid Prescriptions Than They Used To. Here's Why That Matters," 19 Apr. 2018 Black mucus can be the result of smoking cigarettes or using illicit drugs, Dr. Sindwani says. Amy Marturana, SELF, "What Your Snot Can Tell You About Your Health," 26 Dec. 2018 Virtual currencies surely have some value as a hard-to-trace store of value and a way to conduct illicit transactions, but the sky-high valuations of the last year were based on the assumption that blockchain technology would have broader uses. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Ethereum falls below $100—down 93 percent from its January high," 6 Dec. 2018 Some visitors kept a respectful distance from the hulls; others were climbing them like jungle gyms or using paint scrapers to chip off illicit souvenirs. Ashlea Halpern, Condé Nast Traveler, "Long Live Route 66," 19 July 2018 Once dependent, many users resort to cheaper illicit opioids, such as heroin and fentanyl. WSJ, "Should the Government Limit a Physician’s Ability to Treat Patients With Opioids?," 24 June 2018 In addition to clandestine operations, the DEA says, legitimate laboratories make the illicit opioid on the side. Fortune, "Deadly Chinese Fentanyl Is Creating a New Era of Drug Kingpins," 6 June 2018 Data has shown for years that deaths involving both prescribed and illicit opioids are rising sharply. Jamie Ducharme, Time, "Opioids Are Now Responsible for 1 in 5 Deaths Among Young Adults," 2 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.

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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

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Statistics for illicit

Last Updated

8 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for illicit

The first known use of illicit was in 1506

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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)

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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

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