comic (adj.)

late 14c., "of comedy in the classical sense, pertaining to comedy as distinct from tragedy," from Latin comicus "of comedy, represented in comedy, in comic style," from Greek komikos "of or pertaining to comedy," from komos (see comedy). Meaning "intentionally funny, raising mirth" is first recorded 1791, and comedic (1630s) has since picked up the older sense of the word.

Speaking of the masters of the comedic spirit (if I call it, as he does, the Comic Spirit, this darkened generation will suppose me to refer to the animal spirits of tomfools and merryandrews) .... [G.B. Shaw, 1897]

Something that is comic has comedy as its aim or origin; something is comical if the effect is comedy, whether intended or not. Comic relief is attested from 1817. 

comic (n.)

1580s, "a comedic writer;" 1610s, "a comedic actor or singer," from comic (adj.). The Latin adjective comicus also meant "a comedic poet, writer of comedies." Meaning "an entertainer who tells jokes, etc." is by 1952.

Comics for comedic illustrations in cards, newspapers, etc. is from 1890. Comic strip first attested 1914; comic book "a publication that consists of comic art in the form of sequential juxtaposed panels that represent individual scenes" [Wikipedia] is from 1941 (the phrase was used from the 1880s to denote humorous books, some of which consisted entirely of captioned illustrations).

updated on March 06, 2018