When describing something that took place in the past, should you use historic or historical? The answer depends on what you are describing. That's why choosing between historic vs. historical can be a difficult decision if you're not clear on the difference between these words. Use this information to help you select the correct term.
Historic vs. Historical: Difference and Grammar Tips
When to Use Historic vs. Historical
The key to knowing when to use historic or historical is to consider the overall impact of the event, occasion or object you are describing.
- The word historic should be used only to describe a very important or momentous event, occurrence or situation of great significance and/or impact.
- The word historical simply means things that happened in the past or that are based on or have characteristics of the past. The term can describe people, buildings, other places, or events that took place in the past.
Grammar Tips and Pronunciation
Keep these key grammar tips in mind when using the words historic or historical in your writing or spoken communication.
- pronunciation - Historic is generally pronounced as hi-ˈstȯr-ik. Historical is pronounced as hi-ˈstȯr-i-kəl. However, some people do not pronounce the "h" or de-emphasize it such that the letter's sound is barely audible.
- appropriate article - When deciding which article (a vs. an) to use in front of historic or historical, pronunciation should be considered.
- If you pronounce the "h," which is common in American English, use "a."
- If you don't pronounce or barely pronounce the "h," which is common in British English, use "an."
- The article "the" can be appropriate with either pronunciation, assuming it fits with the overall statement.
- part of speech - Both words (historic and historical) are adjectives, so they should be used to describe nouns.
Example Sentences: Correct Usage of Historic
The sample sentences below correctly feature the word historic. Each one is describing something that represents a momentous or significant event or accomplishment.
- Hurricane Katrina was a historic storm that permanently altered New Orleans, Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
- The historic attack on Pearl Harbor represented a turning point in World War II.
- Martin Luther King's historic 1963 I Have a Dream speech at the Lincoln Memorial marked a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement.
- The inauguration of Vice President Kamala Harris was a historic moment for women, African Americans and Asian Americans.
- Graduating from high school is a historic event in the lives of people who achieve that milestone.
- Amelia Earhart's solo flight across the Atlantic was a historic achievement for women and the aviation industry.
- With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2021 Super Bowl Win, quarterback Tom Brady achieved a historic 7th NFL Championship.
- The moment Neil Amstrong took his first step on the surface of the moon was a historic occasion for all of mankind.
- In the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled to end racial segregation in public schools.
Example Sentences: Proper Usage of Historical
The following situations are ones where the word historical is appropriate. Each sentence refers to something that took place in the past, but that would not be described as a historic (momentous) occasion.
- Meteorologists use historical data about past weather events to help forecast future conditions.
- Lisa's house is in the town's historical district.
- Bridgerton is a fictional series on Netflix set in London, England during historical times.
- Lea enjoys reading historical romance novels.
- I reviewed a number of historical documents about my family at the genealogy library.
- Harriet Tubman is an important historical figure due to her role in the Underground Railroad and the Civil War.
- She decided to wear a historical Halloween costume based on dress styles from Little House on the Prairie.
- Tracy plans to pursue a career in historical preservation.
- The Lenox Library in New York City is a beautiful and important historical building.
Making Sense of Similar Words
Many words in the English language look similar when written and/or sound almost the same when spoken, yet don't mean the same thing. Now that you know how to differentiate historical vs. historic, continue building your language using skills by learning how to properly use even more commonly confused words. Use these commonly confused words worksheets to practice what you learn and test your ability to differentiate between these terms. From there, explore some historical terms like fascism vs. communism vs. socialism.