The Naked Truth: Differentiating Explicit and Implicit

Posted on Apr 17, 2019

Sometimes life forces us in situations where we have to be transparent with the messages we relay. Sometimes we have to be vague and hope that the person gets it.

Both of these situations call for us to either be explicit or implicit. Do you know which is which?

Explicit Implicit

Explicit and implicit are adjectives that have similar endings. This can cause them to be confused for the other sometimes. Let’s break them down and find out what they actually mean.

When something is explicit, it means that something stated is directly. Messages that are said explicitly are to be taken literally and at face value. Here are some easy examples:

  1. Professor told the class explicitly to not contact her via text message.

  2. I explicitly told Karen to boil the chicken first before putting in the vegetables.

  3. The instructions on how to care for the coat weren’t very explicit.

Explicit is also used to describe forms of entertainment that are unsuitable for children.

Conversely, when something is said implicitly, it means that something is only hinted at or suggested. Think of “implicit” as the word equivalent of *wink, wink* and *nudge, nudge*. Here are some examples:

  1. Cheryl didn’t catch the implicit meaning of the dog’s death in the movie.

  2. He was very implicit about his threat, but she caught on immediately.

  3. Perhaps you flirted too implicitly, and that’s why he didn’t catch on immediately.

The best way to remember how they’re different is by looking at their prefixes. Both words came from Latin, implicitus and explicitus. The meaning of each word can be differentiated by their prefixes. The prefix ex- means out; the word explicit means that the message is laid out clearly. The prefix im- means “in”; the word implicit means that the real meaning is still inside the message.


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