Explicit vs. Implicit

  angbeenc  —  Grammar Tips

There are many words in English that despite having very similar sounds have completely different meanings. This can lead to confusion and usage problems for native and non-native speakers alike, and the words implicit vs. explicit are no exception to this. These two words have almost opposite meanings but are regularly confused because of their similar sound. Since they do have such different meanings, you want to be sure you’re using the right one. In this post, I want to go over the definitions of these words, explain their differences, and have you take a quiz on their meanings.

After reading this post, you won’t ever again ask yourself the question, “Is it explicit or implicit?”


The word explicit originated in early 17th century (as an adjective): from French explicite or Latin explicitus, past participle of explicare ‘unfold’.

Explicit as adjective:

Explicit is used as an adjective which means stated clearly and in detail, leaving no room for confusion or doubt.

The arrangement had not been made explicit.

Explicit as noun:

Explicit is also used as a noun which means the closing words of a manuscript, early printed book, or chanted liturgical text.

Implicit as adjective:

Implicit is used as an adjective which means suggested though not directly expressed.

Comments seen as implicit criticism of the policies were not taken into account.

Implicit also implies always to be found in; essentially connected with.

Implicit also means with no qualification or question; absolute.

She had an implicit faith in God.


Although he declined to offer Mr Trump any explicit advice, he said he’d been served well by selling his assets and investing them in Treasury bills. (The Australian)

The head of Ant Financial Services Group, the payment affiliate of Alibaba Holdings Ltd, apologized on Tuesday following backlash from Chinese netizens over a social feature in the company’s payment app that critics say enabled a sexually explicit dating service. (Reuters)

In a 58-page report that has been circulated before Friday’s Council of Australian Governments meeting between the prime minister and the premiers, Finkel has also given implicit endorsement to an emissions intensity trading scheme for the electricity industry to help manage the transition to lower-emissions energy sources. (The Guardian)

Implicit or explicit:

Implicit and explicit have near opposite meanings, so it’s important to remember their difference. Implicit is indirectly stated or implied. Explicit is directly stated and spelled out. A good way to keep explicit vs implicit apart is to remember that Implicit is an Implied or Indirect statement. Both of these start with the letter “I.” Explicit starts with an “E” and is Spelled Out, so there is no confusion.


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