1660s, "of or belonging to history," probably a back-formation from historical, perhaps influenced by French historique. Meaning "what is noted or celebrated in history" is from 1794.
Though both historic and historical have been used in both senses by respected authors, now the tendency is to reserve historic for what is noted or celebrated in history; historical for what deals with history. The earliest adjective form of the word in English was historial (late 14c., from Late Latin historialis), which meant "belonging to history; dealing with history; literal, factual, authentic," and also "of historical importance" (early 15c.).
updated on July 28, 2015