Historic and historical sound so similar that it’s no wonder people confuse the two. And they both deal with history (go figure…) so that makes writing and speaking even more baffling. The main difference is that one deals with the specific, while the other deals with the generic. Get to know the history and usage of these words and you’ll be good to go.
Historic: an event, day, moment, etc., that is momentous in history
Historical: anything that pertains to or occurred in history
Their Usage And Some Examples
The Apollo 11 moon landing was historic, an event that many older Americans will never forget.
—The sentence refers to a very particular event, so historic must be used.
The old Victorian era house down the street has historical value.
—The house is old and part of history, but it’s not a house that is connected to a specific moment or event. It pertains to history, but the house itself isn’t momentous in history.
The etymology behind this pair of words isn’t too exciting. They’ve kept their meanings over time and history hasn’t led to any changes.
Historic: The meaning has not changed, but historic is likely a back-formation of historical.
Historical: The meaning has remained the same over time.
Check out another popular Commonly Confused Words post, this one about the difference between “forego” and “forgo,” to continue perfecting your vocabulary.