‘Explicit' vs 'Implicit': What's the Difference?

By Shanea Patterson, updated on December 21, 2022

Is something too ‘explicit’ or ‘implicit’? What’s the difference between these two words? We’ll talk about that in this article, plus teach you how to use both words in a sentence.

The quick answer is:

  • ‘Explicit’ means leaving no question as to intent or meaning.
  • ‘Implicit’ means implied.

That means they’re essentially opposite terms.

‘Explicit’ vs. ‘Implicit’ – Usage Guide

Though these terms sound similar, they mean the opposite things – they’re antonyms. Therefore, you shouldn’t try to use them interchangeably.

‘Explicit’ means leaving no question as to intent or meaning, and ‘implicit’ means implied.

‘Explicit’ vs. ‘Implicit’ – What’s the Difference?

You just learned that the difference between ‘explicit’ and ‘explicit’ is that the former means clear-cut, and the latter means implied.

Definition and Meaning of ‘Explicit’

The Merriam-Webster definition of ‘explicit’ is: “fully revealed or expressed without vagueness, implication, or ambiguity: leaving no question as to meaning or intent,” “open in the depiction of nudity or sexuality,” “fully developed or formulated,” “unambiguous in expression,” and “of a mathematical function: defined by an expression containing only independent variables.”

Synonyms of the word include:

  • Clear-cut
  • Express
  • Definite
  • Specific
  • Univocal
  • Unequivocal
  • Definitive

Definition and Meaning of ‘Implicit’

The Merriam-Webster definition of ‘implicit’ is: “a capable of being understood from something else though unexpressed: implied,” “present but not consciously held or recognized,” “not lessened by doubt: absolute, complete,” “involved in the nature or essence of something though not revealed, expressed, or developed: potential,” and “of a mathematical function: defined by an expression in which the independent variables are not separated on opposite sides of an equation.”

A few synonyms of the word include:

  • Implied
  • Unspoken
  • Tacit
  • Unvoiced
  • Unexpressed
  • Wordless

How to Use ‘Explicit’ in a Sentence

Now that we know what both words mean let’s see how to use them in a sentence.

  • Everyone was given explicit instructions once they arrived.
  • To join, you’ll have to follow all the explicit rules of the organization.
  • That movie has explicit ratings. You can’t watch it unless you’re over 17.
  • Have you read the explicit instructions for the exam?
  • There are scenes of explicit violence in this movie. Are you sure you want to watch it?
  • I explicitly asked for a room with a view. This is unacceptable.

How to Use ‘Implicit’ in a Sentence

Now, let’s see how to use ‘implicit’ in a sentence correctly.

  • She has an implicit belief in Christianity. She wears a cross, so I assume she’s a Christian.
  • The implicit bias in the college admissions process has caused quite a stir.
  • The implicit bond they shared was invaluable.
  • Our implicit protest of censorship almost went unnoticed.
  • The article was an implicit call to action.
  • That implicit statement about modern motherhood from that podcast this morning is stuck in my head.

Final Advice on ‘Explicit’ vs. ‘Implicit’

In closing, we talked about the difference between ‘explicit’ and ‘implicit,’ and you know that ‘explicit’ means clear-cut and ‘implicit’ means implied. They’re essentially opposites.

Try to remember that in your writing. If you have trouble, don’t be afraid to come back and refresh your memory.

We’ve also got a whole library of content full of articles dedicated to explaining confusing words and phrases in the English language.

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Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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