What Does Sic Mean?

Sic can be one of several things:

  • An adverb denoting that something is quoted as is, including mistakes.
  • A Scottish word with the same meaning as such.
  • A verb meaning “to attack” or “to entice to attack.”

Sic is the funny little word that lurks within brackets and stands beside spelling or grammar errors. It’s been doing so since the middle of the nineteenth century, and while it’s regularly seen today, people still wonder about its meaning and how to define it. It turns out there are a few ways to define sic, because there’s the Scottish sic and the English sic beside the Latin sic we see in brackets.

Sic Definition Image

Sic—What Does It Mean?

The sic you see in quoted text marks a spelling or grammatical error. It means that the text was quoted verbatim, and the mistake it marks appears in the source. It’s actually a Latin word that means “so” or “thus.”

If you’re from Scotland, you probably know that sic is another way of saying “such.” It can also be a verb that means “to attack something or someone” or “to entice to attack.” This sic, the one that means “to attack,” is unrelated to the Latin sic. It’s an alteration of the verb seek.

How to Use Sic

Sic is usually found in brackets or parentheses, and it can also be italicized. If you want to quote someone or something in your work, and you notice the source material contains a spelling or grammatical error, you use sic to denote the error by placing it right after the mistake. It shows your readers that you didn’t just make a typo.

A note of caution: when you use sic to mark a mistake, make sure it’s really a mistake. Just think of all the spelling differences between British and American English. Even if a spelling seems unfamiliar to you, double-check it before you sic it.

It’s possible that some might consider using sic as bad form because it’s used to point out other people’s mistakes. But then again, if you don’t point them out, they could be considered yours. Use your judgment. If it’s obvious that you’re quoting a Twitter post that’s full of misspellings, marking each one with a sic might look like you’re making fun of the writer.

Sic Examples

“I have expressed my sincere position regarding my contract status and with sound mind have expressed my stands (sic) to the Texans organization.” —FoxSports

“We all gon (sic) be dead in 100 Years. Let the kids have the music.” —Toronto Sun

“It might may (sic) no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief.” —Politico

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  • Mainframe

    Does sic apply to both written and oral quotes? For example, a quote from a video interview?

    • Jason Tweed

      When transcribing oral quotes I use sic only if the person uses a distinctly incorrect word. If someone says “nobody asked me” but the audio recording sounds like “nobody ax me”, it’s clear they intended “asked” but dialect or informality influenced the spoken form. I would use sic where the speaker misuses a phrase, such as “for all intensive purposes (sic)” rather than quoting them as “for all intents and purposes”.

      • Mainframe

        Thanks for clarifying.

      • Shrugged

        Excellent examples – thank you.

      • Geoff Thomas

        A friend with whom I worked once complained to me that the Bell on the Trade Counter wan’t working.

        “The thing of it is” he said “it do work sometimes but then again it don’t work at all. It’s very sentimental”. where I would put the (sic) would very much depend upon the audience for whom I am writing. In my opinion, reported speech is just that, reported speech and it is often used to show someone’s ethnicity or standard of education and, as reported speech, needs nothing after it to show that it is actually what the peron said and how the person spoke, so a (sic) is unnecessary.

        The word ‘sentimental’, used here in error for the correct word ‘temperamental’ would be the single target of the (sic) as it is just simply WRONG, whereas dialect constructs and local patterns of speech are not.

  • John Galt

    On the Internet it seems to be a reference to “sic transit gloria mundi”, because as soon as someone disparagingly quotes an error this way, the original poster will fix it by Monday. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. ;-D

    • Dino DiLabio

      The next someone says the word “Sic” just tell them,then you need to go and see a doctor.

      • Ron

        Dino, -_-

      • Diana Gardner Robinson

        But, in the spoken word, “sic” sounds like “sick.” And “sick” has different meanings as one crosses the Atlantic. In the U.S. “I’m sick,” means “I’m feeling ill,” or not well. In the U.K. it is most frequently taken to refer to vomiting. Hence, one is unlike to say “I’m sick,” but more likely “I was sick,” or “I’m going to be sick” (while heading hastily to the bathroom).

  • Sonia Roman

    Can sic be used in sentences written in non-English languages?

    • tjohn

      Since it’s a non-English word, I would say yes, you could use it.

      • Francesca Heather-Hayes

        It won’t necessarily be recognised as a writing term, especially in languages with little or no Latin derivation

    • Geoff Thomas

      A very good question which depends upon one’s understanding of the language concerned. It would be perfectly fine if you were commenting on a phrase spelled or used incorrectly, for instance, reporting someone else’s use of an adopted phrase.

      The French phrase “hors de combat” which means “out of the fight” is an adopted phrase that is commonly used in English. It refers, in its original sense, to noncombatants in a field of battle. Its usual form indicates someone who doesn’t fight due to injury or sickness.

      I have seen this phrase used in very risible ways by people who dion’t really understand it, the most popular being those people who add an “e” onto the word “hors” to make the risible phrase “horse de combat”. That would definitely deserve a (sic).

      I have also seen it used in the form “The king’s hors de combat had been killed and he was fighting dismounted” (which is REALLY funny). The (sic) is pretty obvious, but I would put it at the end of the complete quote because it isn’t the phrase that is incorrect, it is the whole sentence.

  • Sally Penfold

    I think of it as meaning – ‘as is’ and ‘with errors’.

  • Christopher in Portland

    In the above text, the author of this article has made a common error by referring to a “grammatical error”. If it’s grammatical, it “ain’t” an error…and obviously, an error in or of, grammar, is obviously not grammatical. So there! LOL.

    • JTB

      By this logic, we shouldn’t talk of “logical fallacies” since they’re explicit failures to conform to the rules of (a given) logic. Note that “grammatical” can simply mean something like “concerning grammar” as well as something like “conforming to the rules of the grammar of a given language”. We use the latter when referring to strings (e.g., sentences, formulae, etc.), the former for everything else.

  • Missy McMaster

    In the animated Batman series a dialogue between the Joker and Batman himself took place

    Joker: Any last words?
    Batman: sic em (speaking to his dogs)

    ~* dogs attacked joker*~

    Sic always looks that way to Missy! Hehehe

  • fuzzball

    Why make it difficult. I figured it out in my early teens. I figured it meant “spelling in copy” and do not blame the author, blame the person he was quoting for spelling, wrong word, etc. At 67 still makes sense to me.

  • Diana Gardner Robinson

    A question I have on this topic is whether it is really correct to use parentheses. I ask because I have always used square brackets, as [sic]. Might that be another “across the pond” difference since I was educated in England?

  • kummarluv

    oh, someone told me it was short for “said in context” – as in to say: this may not make sense here, maybe downright wrong, but works in the context it was originally said in.

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