Historic Or Historical Or Hysterical?

Somewhere in New Mexico

March 6, 2020

What is the difference between “historic“ and “historical” if there is one? Perhaps it’s like “toward” and “towards?” (Which grammar folks tell me are interchangeable but I think “towards” is like preventative. So there. 🤔😎)

Here’s what Grammarly has to say:

Historic describes something momentous or important in history. Historical describes something that belongs to an earlier period of history.

Historic and historical are two adjectives that have very similar meanings; so similar that it’s no wonder they are often confused. Still, they are not simply two spellings for the same word, so you should know when to use which.

When to Use Historic

Historic is an adjective that comes in handy when we speak about people, places, or events that existed or happened in the past. But we can’t use the adjective for everything that relates to the past—only those things and people that have a prominent place in history are called historic.

  1. We used a historic map to learn about the history of our town. THIS IS INCORRECT.

  2. The effects of the historic Battle of Hastings can still be seen in the English language. THIS IS CORRECT.

When to Use Historical

For other people or places that existed in the past, or for things that relate to history, we use the adjective historical:

  1. We used a historical map to learn about the history of our town. THIS IS CORRECT.

  2. The meeting between the two countries’ leaders was a historical occasion. THIS IS INCORRECT.


  1. These battlefields and military installations were declared a National Historic Landmark in 1985. Forbes

  2. Chanel has said it will leave a historic perfume site in France if plans for a high-speed train line affecting its jasmine fields go ahead. BBC

  3. Gladden said Alda Clark founded the historicalsociety after the death of her husband, former Howard County Circuit Court Judge James Clark Sr., in 1955. The Baltimore Sun

  4. Scientists have pieced together historical records to reconstruct Arctic sea ice extent over the past 125 years. The Guardian

I called upon someone whose opinion I respect and got this answer:

The information contained in the sign seems to discuss historic events, but the sign itself isn't a significant event from the past. Technically, the sign isn't historical either since it exists in the present, but it's about history, and the sign posting guy wants to let you know that. The correct grammar probably requires him to say, "Road sign about historic event ahead," but that's kinda wordy. If I'd written the sign. I'd probably opt for historical and figure "What the hell? No one cares anyway."

”Hysterical" can be used to describe the condition of someone who is obsessed with the grammar of road signs. 🤪🤔🤙👽

It appears New Mexico isn’t quite sure which word to use and is playing both sides - some signs read as above and others....

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