This is a tricky one that makes us want to check and double-check to make sure we’re using the right adjective. “Historic” and “historical” are adjectives that have very similar meanings:

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

Correct: The historic inauguration of Kamala Harris, the first woman to serve as vice president of the United States, took place on Jan. 20, 2021.
Incorrect: We drove an historic car to the drive-in to impress my friends.

Correct: Gao found a historical coin belonging to Captain Cook while she was diving near Hawaii’s Big Island.
Incorrect: The historical discovery of water on Mars led some to believe life beyond Earth exists.

As far as using “a” or “an” before either of these words, Merriam-Webster says it’s up to you, but “a” is more common.