For most of the commonly misused words that we’ve touched on in our posts (e.g., “composed” vs. “comprised,” “farther” vs. “further,” and “e.g.” vs. “i.e.”), you may have known that the two featured words differed in meaning but just didn’t know how they differed.
However, when you looked at the featured image for this post, you may have been puzzled. Many of you may have even thought that “historic” and “historical” were just different versions of the same word (but they’re not!).
Because these words are so easy to mix up, we’re going to set the record straight today by explaining the difference between “historic” versus “historical.”
Let’s start off with“historic,” the shorter of the two words. “Historic” is a word that we use when we’re referring to an important event or object in history. For example, we use “historic” in sentences like these:
- “It was a historic occasion when Franklin Roosevelt accepted the Democratic presidential nomination in June 1936.”
- “The historic department store was destroyed in the fire.”
- “Pompeii is a historic site.”
Although “historical” looks like it’s just a longer version of “historic,” it does mean something different. Specifically, we use “historical” when we’re referring to something related to history or the past. For example, we use “historical” in sentences like these:
- “We should include images of historical documents in the history textbook.”
- “They read a historical novel that was based on WWII.”
- “Shanelle is a historical advisor for movies.”
Of course, an important event that has already happened is something that happened in the past. For this reason, a historic (i.e., important) event is also a historical (i.e., past) event. However, the reverse isn’t necessary true; a historical event isn’t always a historic event. After all, not everything that happened in the past is important.
Some of you may be wondering how important a “historical” event has to be before you can call it “historic.” Well, we hate to break it to you, but there isn’t a concrete set of criteria that something needs to meet before it’s okay to call it “historic.” Instead, you’ll need to use your judgment. If something that happened in the past is important for your audience or in the context of the topic you’re discussing, it may be safe to call it “historic.”
In sum, “historical” is a word that we use to refer to past events in general whereas “historic” is what we use when we’re talking about an important past event.
Want to know the difference between other commonly misused words? Check out our post on the difference between “who” and “that.”
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