In the description of a guided tour across a city, what adjective should one pick:

During your tour, you will see historic buildings


During your tour, you will see historical buildings

Judging by this helpful explanation, one should opt for historic if the building is important in history, and for historical if the building is merely part of the city's history:

The adjective historic means having importance in history or having influence on history.
The adjective historical means having taken place in history, from the past or pertaining to history.

Judging by Google, both adjectives are used, although historic seems to predominate. Which of them is more appropriate in my case?

3 Answers 3


In your example, historical buildings is correct, if you are referring to old, landmark buildings that have a "history" or have been around from time historical.

  • And if I use historic buildings, would that imply that the buildings had significant impact on history beyond my city? Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 15:21
  • 1
    Potentially, yes. Although you might have to make clear why they are considered historic, what historic event(s) they hosted, etc.
    – CocoPop
    Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 15:22

A historic event is an important event whereas historical event is the event happened in the past. The past is history and thus, the event is historical.

'Historic' means very important and likely to be remembered in coming years. Say historic building, the building that is likely to be remembered. On the other hand, historical means something already happened in the past or connected with the past (as in historical study/research).

So, in your case, the buildings are monuments and a part of tour (sightseeing). They are historical buildings.

A piece of information from OALD

Historic is usually used to describe something that is so important that it is likely to be remembered:Today is a historic occasion for our country.Historical usually describes something that is connected with the past or with the study of history, or something that really happened in the past:I have been doing some historical research. ◇ Was Robin Hood a historical figure?

To play a pun, the building that is historic today will be historical in coming decades ;)


Longman Dictionary says

a historic place or building is very old the restoration of historic buildings

Macmillan says

a historic place is important because it is old and interesting or impressive the historic city of York

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