illicit

adjective
il·​lic·​it | \ (ˌ)i(l)-ˈli-sət How to pronounce illicit (audio) \

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 The investigation shows that federal prosecutors and regulators continue to expand a campaign against an illicit practice known as spoofing, which has mainly focused on wily trading in derivatives. Dave Michaels, WSJ, "Government Is Broadening Investigations of Spoofing-Like Practices," 17 Mar. 2020 Combined, prescription painkillers and illicit versions such as heroin and fentanyl have been linked to more than 430,000 deaths in the country since 2000. USA TODAY, "Mussel eco-tourism, Morgan Freeman, firework fix: News from around our 50 states," 14 Mar. 2020 Initiative Petition 44 would decriminalize small amounts of illicit drugs and redirect most revenue generated by recreational marijuana sales toward drug abuse treatment. oregonlive, "With coronavirus spreading in Oregon, how will it shape state politics?," 10 Mar. 2020 Thirty years on, however, South Africa again possesses a robust—if now illicit—trade in skin lighteners. Lynn M. Thomas, Quartz Africa, "There’s a complex history of skin lighteners in Africa and beyond," 9 Mar. 2020 The North Koreans are believed to have supplemented the forging program with other illicit efforts. Wired, "How North Korean Hackers Rob Banks Around the World," 28 Feb. 2020 On Friday, for instance, the Financial Action Task Force, the world’s most important illicit-finance watchdog, formally blacklisted Iran for its failure to fall in line with international regulations designed to prevent the financing of terrorism. Ilan Berman, National Review, "In Iran, an Electoral Flop," 26 Feb. 2020 People with opioid use disorder who receive MAT are less likely to die of overdose or use illicit opioids, according to the USDA. Anna Claire Vollers | Avollers@al.com, al, "New opioid treatment rules ignite controversy among doctors," 21 Feb. 2020 The British Museum strongly supports the fight against trade in illicit antiquities. The Economist, "Exploiting Brexit talks Will Britain lose the Elgin marbles?," 20 Feb. 2020

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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Time Traveler for illicit

Time Traveler

The first known use of illicit was in 1506

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Statistics for illicit

Last Updated

21 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Illicit.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/illicit. Accessed 3 Apr. 2020.

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More Definitions for illicit

illicit

adjective
How to pronounce illicit (audio)

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 How to pronounce illicit (audio) \

Kids Definition of illicit

: not permitted : unlawful

illicit

adjective
il·​lic·​it | \ il-ˈli-sət How to pronounce illicit (audio) \

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for illicit

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with illicit

Spanish Central: Translation of illicit

Nglish: Translation of illicit for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of illicit for Arabic Speakers

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