Historic – historical


Learners of English sometimes find it difficult to differentiate between the words “historic” and “historical”. This post briefly discusses the semantic differences between them.

Historic means “important, outstanding, famous in history”.

Historical means “related to history, concerning the past”.

Therefore, if we want to say that a scholar has just made an important discovery, we should say:
Dr. Rolland has just made a historic discovery! The herb that he has discovered is now going to help people fight cancer.

If we are speaking about something that has to do with the past (belongs to history, a part of the past), then we should use “historical” as in the example below:
Although little Tommy is just in grade one, he already knows such historical events as the first celebration of Canada Day, and establishment of first European Canadian settlements in Canada.

Sometimes, it is possible to use wither “historic” or “historical” in the same phrase; however, the meaning is not identical. For example, “historic event is one that was very important, whereas a historical event is something that happened in the past” (OD, 2016).

E.g. Professor, now I see that your today’s discovery is a historic event for all humanity.

The first celebration of Canada Day (Dominion Day) happened about 150 years ago and is now a historical event.

See also a similar post on little – small.

Oxford Dictionaries (OD) (2016). Retrieved July 3, 2016, from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com


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