Implicit vs Explicit: A Clear Guide to the Differences

, Staff Writer
Updated October 26, 2021
Car and Garage Implicit vs Explicit example
    Car and Garage Implicit vs Explicit example
    MicrovOne / iStock / Getty Images Plus
    Used under Getty Images license

You’ve likely come across the words explicit and implicit, but these terms are easy to confuse if you aren’t familiar with their meanings or the context they are used in. Explore the meanings and differences between explicit and implicit along with information on when to use them.

What Is the Difference Between Implicit and Explicit?

While explicit and implicit look similar at first glance, they are in fact opposites.

  • explicit - clear with no room for argument; extremely detailed

  • implicit - implied, but not stated clearly

How to Use Explicit in Context

Explicit is an adjective that means something is specifically expressed. If something is explicit, it is clear and without question. The word comes from the Latin explicare, which means "unfold, unravel or explain." It can also mean something is fully developed or something that is graphically detailed or vulgar.

  • My explicit instructions were to open the garage, then pull the car out. (specific and blatant)

  • I wouldn’t do anything without her explicit consent. (clear and without question)

  • The book’s content was very explicit. (graphic and vulgar)


How to Use Implicit Correctly

Implicit is an adjective that means "to imply or suggest something." Even if something is not clearly expressed, the implied meaning is clear. It can also mean closely connected to or engrained in something or having confidence in someone or something.

  • Maybe my instructions to “move the car” were too implicit. (implied or understood to be true)

  • She had implicit trust in her co-workers. (complete faith in)

  • He showed implicit obedience towards his superiors. (he shows it in his actions)

  • The company’s implicit values were evident. (the values are ingrained in the company culture)

How to Remember the Difference

Use these words that begin with the same prefixes as reminders, so you will always remember the meanings of implicit and explicit.

  • implicit is implied

  • explicit refers to something that is explained thoroughly


Make These Vocabulary Words Explicitly Clear

While the difference between implicit and explicit is, well, explicit, some words are not so clear-cut. Study the difference between imbed and embed and invoke and evoke. Then, check out why emigrate and immigrate are two separate words.