Explain The Difference Between “Historic vs. Historical” in English Grammar

English Grammar Rules

Explain The Difference Between “Historic vs. Historical” in English Grammar

Both words historic and historical are concerned with history, causing confusion and occasional mixups among writers. Despite their seemingly overlapping meanings, these terms are used very differently.

The term historic is commonly used as an adjective meaning “famous or important in history, or potentially so.” Among its synonyms are momentous, notable, and significant.

“Ralph Branca, pitcher who gave up historic home run, dies at 90”
Washington Post

“Historic WWII PT boat heads home through streets of New Orleans”
Fox News

“Thanksgiving 2016 Quotes: All The Best Historic, Inspiring, And Funny Sayings to Share on Turkey Day”
The Inquistr

On the other hand, historical is an adjective used to denote “of or concerning history; concerning past events” or “belonging to the past, not the present.”

“The Ankara shooting isn’t 1914. And historical analogies can often lead us astray.”
Washington Post

“Rutgers University Acknowledges Historical Ties to Slavery in New Report”

“The FTSE 100’s p/e ratio is 33, the historical average is 15. So are shares hugely overvalued?”
The Telegraph

Notice that the main difference between the two terms is the emphasis of historic on the significance or influence of something in history. Meanwhile, the term historical be used to describe anything from the past, regardless of its significance or importance. Given these difference in use, we may conclude that anything historic can be considered historical but not everything historicalcan be recognized as historic.

Below are examples of the misuse of the word historic. In these sentences, the term historical would have been more appropriate to use.

“Business owners transform historic buildings in downtown”

“The return of Julue Dash’s Historic ‘Daughters of the Dust’”
The New Yorker

“Crewe Alexandra open investigation into allegations of historic sexual abuse as six people come forward after Andy Woodward’s revelations”
Daily Mail

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