“A historic” or “An historic”?

Aha! Confusing, isn’t it? It’s like they made up this word to mess with your head, and trust me, it’s complicated in two different ways. The first of these is whether you use a or an.

The first thing to keep in mind is that you want to be consistent. Although different people will write a historical and an historical, you really want to use just one of them. If you’re writing a large history book and the words historic, historical or historically pop up a lot, you really want to be consistent so that your readers don’t flinch.

Now, think back to how you write hour. You write an hour, and that is absolutely correct. But historic is a whole ‘nother beast.

Most people nowadays use the a, however, almost nobody will care if you use an. Nevertheless, is technically correct according to The Chicago Manual of Style’s rules: you want to use the an only when the word starts with a vowel sound, and neither historic nor historical nor historically do, unlike hour.

This is all very well explained in the latest edition of the Oxford Dictionary of English in the Usage at An section (and if you want to improve your English, that’s an essential dictionary anyway.)

So you always write sentences like this:

  • I’m going to a historical event.
  • That was a historic battle.
  • A historically significant church.

The second way in which this word is complicated is whether you should use historic or historical. But that’s another article.


The Chicago Manual of Style. 16th ed. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 2010.

Oxford Dictionary of English. 3rd ed. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2010