«Llamamos decisión o elección al acto elícito de la voluntad que tiene por objeto(...)»

What is the meaning of elícito in this sentence? From word reference dictionary I get no definition, so I've tried a Portuguese dictionary and I get adjective from verb «eliciar» which may mean to expel, to bring out, to atract, to evoke, etc.

May I use these meanings? Which one is more suitable in this situation?

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    – Flimzy
    Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 13:50

3 Answers 3


Initially I figured this was a mere misspelling for ilícito. That said, I pulled up the document it seems you got this from, and I'm more inclined to say it an odd calque from English (or Latin, given that's ultimately where we got it from) to Spanish.

The OED defines elicit (adj.) as “Of an act: Evolved immediately from an active power or quality; opposed to imperate” and further clarifies that

The ‘elicit acts’ of the will are its internal acts (i.e. the volitions themselves); its ‘imperate acts’ are the external acts ‘commanded’ by it. In Ethics, the ‘elicit acts’ of a particular virtue are those essentially implied in its definition; its ‘imperate acts’ are those which it may under peculiar circumstances require.

Investigating further, it seems this line is from a book translated from the Italian, as per its introduction

es la traducción, adaptada al público de lengua española y puesta al día, de la primera reimpresión de la tercera edición del mismo manual en lengua italiana

An Italian dictionary shows that the definition for elicitare (v.) is

tr. [dal lat. elicitare, frequent. di elicere «tirare fuori»] (io elìcito, ecc). – In psicologia, riferito a comportamenti o condotte, stimolarli, ottenerli mediante domande o altri stimolie

But when I tried to find an adjective form of it, a Portuguese definition popped up in Google with a very specific phrasal form quite relevant to the use in the document:

ato elícito: FILOSOFÍA (escolástica) o que é proporio da vontade (querer, consentir)
(do latim elicĭtu-, participio passado de elicĕre «fazer sair; atrair*)

Its root actually matches better the one for the Italian elicere, but I'm already pretty off topic now haha.

An elicit act, in philosophy then and as used in the document, is one done of one's own will, as contrasted with an imperate act (done of someone else's).

  • 1
    Guifa, I think your initial document already contains the answer, which is consistent with the definition given by OED. Many thanks for the resources you posted in your answer. Commented Aug 31, 2014 at 9:04
  • 1
    @Anoldmaninthesea. I thought about just leaving it there, but I wanted to triple check that in other Romance languages it has that meaning. Sometimes English will grab a term based on an older denotation, or it will innovate a new one so the confidence level is higher if the term exists/is used in other Romance languages with the same meaning. Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 3:00
  • Yes, you're right. I also do the same. ;) Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 9:00
  • Not to be pedantic... but I don't think this is a calque, but more like a loanword.
    – rodrigo
    Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 20:28
  • @Rodrigo indeed. You're correct Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 20:35

Puedo decirte que en mi vida, jamás había escuchado esa palabra google dice "elícito: que es voluntario" pero ni la RAE ni el DEM tienen esa palabra registrada. Creo que es posible que te refieras a "ilícito" que significa que es ilegal, que no sigue las leyes. Saludos.

  • 1
    esta es una palabra rara y que se usa ocasionalmente en leyes y filosofía, dudo que aparezca en el diccionario de la RAE.
    – Rosenthal
    Commented Aug 31, 2014 at 1:20
  • generalmente cuando se menciona se especifica la definición
    – Rosenthal
    Commented Aug 31, 2014 at 1:32

"de la voluntad" in that sentence is redundant.

Based on Oxford Dictionary*:

Elícito adj. : Que es voluntario.

Which is a synonym of voluntario: voluntary in English.

So, if we substitute elícito for voluntario we get:

«Llamamos decisión o elección al acto voluntario de la voluntad que tiene por objeto(...)»

As you can see this is redundant, because voluntario is a derivative word of voluntad.

Therefore, the correct way to write that sentence is:

«Llamamos decisión o elección al acto elícito que tiene por objeto(...)»

*verified with philosophical concepts, that I did't mention to avoid an unnecessary long answer.

  • Thanks for your answer. But I think that the 1st file at the accepted answer explains this in more detail. Thanks anyway. ;) Commented Aug 31, 2014 at 13:25

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