historic or historical?

What Is the Difference between "historic" and "historical"?

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the quick answer

The Quick Answer

Historic means having importance in history.
Historical means from the past or relating to history.
The words historic and historical are close in meaning, but their uses are quite different.


The adjective historic means having importance in history or having influence on history.


The adjective historical means having taken place in history, from the past or pertaining to history.

Side-by-side examples:
  • This is a historical event.
  • (one that happened in the past)
  • This is a historic event.
  • (one that is important in history, e.g., the Moon landing)
  • He was a historical scholar.
  • (A scholar who studied history)
  • He was a historic scholar.
  • (A scholar who was important in history, e.g., Homer)
  • The bones were of historical significance.
  • (significant from a perspective of history, i.e., possibly worthless but important to study history)
  • The bones were of historic significance.
  • (very significant, i.e., important in history)

A Quick Test

hot grammar tip

Hot Tip


Letters and sounds do not always correlate in English.

When pronouncing the words historic and historical, the accent falls on the second syllable, and many pronounce them as starting with a vowel.  For those people, it is appropriate to use an before historic and historical.  Therefore, you have a choice depending on what sounds best for you.  There is a lot of leniency on this issue.  If you're still unsure, opt for a historical and 'a historic' as these remain preferable - especially in formal writing.

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