Historic vs Historical: Which One To Use?

Let’s have a look at historic vs. historical. It’s easy to confuse the two words. Not only are they both adjectives, but they also share similar spellings and meanings. However, you can’t use historic if you mean historical, and vice versa. It’s important to know how they are different to ensure you are using historic and historical properly. 

Yellow and Green background with the words "Historic ≠ Historical

How to Use Historical

Historical is used to describe places and people from the past. It can also be used as an adjective to describe something that relates to or is directly connected to history. This could be historical records, a historical event, or historical artifacts. Here are some examples: 

  • The village shows a historical view of a day in the life of a settler.
  • We need to find historical records to figure out where our property lines are.
  • Winning gold in all four Olympic events marked a historical moment for Greece. 

A graphic describes the word Historical and gives an example of the word being used.

How to Use Historic

Just like historical, historic is also an adjective that can describe events, places, or people in the past. But while historical is a flexible adjective that can be used broadly, historic is not. You should only use historic for famous or notable events, people, and things. Here are some examples: 

  • The Battle of Gettysburg was a historic turning point in the Civil War. 
  • Generations are often defined by historic events, such as Millennials experiencing 9/11 and the housing crash of 2008 in their formative years. 
  • One of the nation’s most historic figures will always be George Washington.

A graphic describing the word Historic and gives an example of the word being used in a sentence

Examples From Media Sources

“The violent protests over the union flag row have now extended to the East Antrim town, which has long-standing historical links to the Ulster loyalist-Protestant cause.” – The Guardian

For instance, putting all the blame on Wall Street for the Great Depression or on bankers in the current crisis does not stand up to historical scrutiny. – The Economist

Typically, a speech broadcast to a large audience on radio and television (and considered instrumental in historic political changes and ranked as the most important speech in 20th century American history) would seem to be a prime candidate for the public domain. – VICE

Mr Dordain’s reaction: “The UK is on the space station. It’s a historic moment.” – BBC

Quiz

Test yourself with this little quiz!

  1. The _____ building was deemed too important to destroy and the council voted for a full restoration.
  2. Singers performing Puccini’s operas traditionally dress in _____ clothes.
  3. We set off to visit the ____ sites of the ancient city.
  4. This ____ event marked a milestone in the country’s development.
  5. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. have his ____ speech on August 28th, 1963.
  6. The election brought a ____ victory to the Democratic Party.
  7. The ____ cost of something represents its original value.
  8. FDR is a _____ figure of American politics.
  9. He played a ____ role in developing many social programs for the working class.
  10. Historians seek out knowledge about the past using ____sources such as artefacts, documents and oral accounts.

 

Here are the answers:

  1. The historic building was deemed too important to destroy and the council voted for a full restoration.
  2. Singers performing Puccini’s operas traditionally dress in historical clothes.
  3. We set off to visit the historic sites of the ancient city.
  4. This historic event marked a milestone in the country’s development.
  5. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his historic speech on August 28th, 1963.
  6. The election brought a historic victory to the Democratic Party.
  7. The historical cost of something represents its original value.
  8. FDR is a historic figure of American politics.
  9. He played a historical role in developing many social programs for the working class.
  10. Historians seek out knowledge about the past using historical sources such as artefacts, documents and oral accounts.

Related: What about that pesky article?  Is it A historic/historical or An historic/historical?  Find out here: “A Historic Day Or An Historic Day?”  

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