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Historic vs. Historical—Which Should I Use?

Updated on
May 16, 2019
Grammar
  • Historic describes something momentous or important in history.
  • Historical simply describes something that belongs to an earlier period of history.

Historic and historical are two adjectives that have very similar meanings; so similar that it’s no wonder they are often confused. Still, they are not simply two spellings for the same word, so you should know when to use which.

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When to use historic

Historic is an adjective that comes in handy when we speak about people, places, or events that existed or happened in the past. But we can’t use the adjective for everything that relates to the past—only those things and people that have a prominent place in history are called historic:

We used a historic map to learn about the history of our town.

The effects of the historic Battle of Hastings can still be seen in the English language.

When to use historical

For other people or places that existed in the past, or for things that relate to history, we use the adjective historical:

We used a historical map to learn about the history of our town.

The meeting between the two countries’ leaders was a historical occasion.

Historic and historical examples

These battlefields and military installations were declared a National Historic Landmark in 1985.
Forbes

Chanel has said it will leave a historic perfume site in France if plans for a high-speed train line affecting its jasmine fields go ahead.
BBC

Gladden said Alda Clark founded the historical society after the death of her husband, former Howard County Circuit Court Judge James Clark Sr., in 1955.
The Baltimore Sun

Scientists have pieced together historical records to reconstruct Arctic sea ice extent over the past 125 years.
The Guardian

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