historic vs. historical

Hello, guys,

While reading VOA, I found an error:

Actors dressed as key early American patriots - George Washington, Ben Franklin - add to the historic ambience, and talk to tourists.

In this case, I think ‘historic’ should be ‘historical’. The former means ‘significant’ ‘important’ while the latter ‘related to history’. However, I googled and found lots of results of ‘historic ambience’. I think it shows even native speakers are confused by both historic and historical because they are spelled similarly. But my guess is not right, maybe! Is both words used interchangably? I’m curious.

Thank you for your answers in advance!


I’ve seen the two used interchangeably. There should be no confusion. One should be able to tell when it means “well-known in history” or “related to history”. You weren’t confused and neither was I :).

Thanks for your attention, diverhank. :slight_smile: So, do you mean ‘historic’ can mean ‘related to history: historical’ in some contexts, right? Then ‘historic’ in the example sentence I put is NOT an error, isn’t it?

Though many people confuse the two, good writers do not, sweetpumpkin. I presume that your VOA extract is a transcript of a spoken piece, so the speaker may well have misspoken. The ambience is certainly not ‘historic’, though the characters may be.

I think it might be worth while to have a look at the usage note on this page: thefreedictionary.com/historic
it says that the two words can sometimes overlap in meaning

Hmm. I guess that’s why they call it a ‘free’ dictionary. Well, I like Collins’ better than American Heritage’s this time: American Heritage waffles.

Yes. It can be used as such. However, if I were to take a test, I’d have used “historical” in this case because it is more grammatically correct. Based from just the sound of it, historic ambience sounds so much better than historical ambience… maybe that’s why it was written that way.