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What does the Word "Sic" Mean?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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Sic is a Latin word which means "so" or "thus." It is often used in print to indicate that something has been reproduced accurately, especially in transcripts. When used in print, this word is usually placed in brackets, like this: [sic]. The use of brackets indicates that the word is not part of the original quote or material being printed, but rather that it was added. Brackets are also sometimes used for corrections.

One common use of sic is in reproductions of text with weird spellings. Spelling in the English language is still not widely standardized, with some spellings seeming peculiar to people in some places while they are totally normal in others. The word is also used in reproductions or transcripts of old printed material; the Constitution of the United States, for example, contains a number of things which look like spelling and grammar errors to modern readers, although they were perfectly acceptable at the time.

Many publications use sic in a somewhat snide way, to highlight an error. For example, a newspaper might say: "Jones stated in his book that 'its [sic] unlikely that we will see a change in this policy,'" rather than simply correcting the mistake. A quote like this can also be a case for brackets, which would be used like this: "Jones states in his book that '[it's] unlikely that we will see a change in this policy.'" In both cases, the seemingly innocent brackets draw attention to a common grammatical error, implying to the reader that Jones is perhaps not a totally reliable authority.

Sic is often used in verbatim transcripts of speeches or in quotes from other printed material. The use of the word alerts readers to the fact that the apparent error is simply being reproduced, and it is not the fault of the publisher. Many authors pride themselves on reporting things as they are said, errors and all, and their publications are often littered with this term.

In addition to sic, some publishers also use the term "queer but correct" or "qc" in much the same way, indicating that although something looks wrong, it really isn't. Qc is often used by editors while marking up text for the compositor, to ensure that these errors are not corrected by overzealous typesetters.

There are all sorts of fun ways to use [sic] in text, especially if you happen to be quoting someone you don't particularly like, as an appearance of [sic] in a quote carries all sorts of implications. For example, when a politician says something remarkably stupid, adding a [sic] to the quote when it is printed can be one way of illustrating the stupidity without openly commenting on it. The use of [sic] for ridicule is quite common, and Latin geeks often get a kick out of it.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Language & Humanities researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Flywheel1 — On Aug 26, 2010

To Poster 14: "Sic" usually means you're quoting someone's misspelled or misused word exactly as they wrote it. For example, if you had written, "I'm not sure I understand it enough to use it myself," and typed "meself" instead of "myself," I might quote you this way: "I'm not sure I understand it enough to use it meself (sic)."

By anon106578 — On Aug 26, 2010

Thanks. I have an understanding now, not a good one, but understand a little more. I'm not sure I understand it enough to use it myself, but understand enough when I read it. Thanks again.

By anon102910 — On Aug 10, 2010

The explanation was very clear and extremely resourceful. Thank you!

By dherath — On Apr 28, 2010

All in all, I like the explanation. But the clarity of your example (involving John's book) would significantly increase if you add a sentence as to why "Its" is grammatically wrong (the difference between Its and It's).

Do not take this difference lightly. Many people will not notice this the first time (I did not) and if you did not notice it, your example is not very illuminating.

My favorite "Element of Style" by E.B. White explains this difference at the very beginning of the book for a good reason.

By anon79009 — On Apr 21, 2010

Very good explanation clarifying fully.

By anon76929 — On Apr 12, 2010

Clear as mud!

By anon76675 — On Apr 11, 2010

Absolutely a perfect description followed by an intensive research. Altaf A.

By anon76627 — On Apr 11, 2010

The explanation was thoroughly unintelligible.

By anon76625 — On Apr 11, 2010

"Sic" could be remembered mnemonically, as "Such Intended Cypher", or "Such Innovative Cypher". Anyway, my congratulations (and thanks!), for a very comprehensive, (and very clear and understandable!), explanation!

By anon76608 — On Apr 11, 2010

I always had a misunderstanding about this!

By anon76591 — On Apr 11, 2010

Please [sic] define “Sic gloria mundi”

By anon76588 — On Apr 11, 2010

a bit of info like that can be fun to use on someone who thinks he knows it all. Thanks a lot. cal

By Flywheel1 — On Apr 11, 2010

"To look at him, you'd think he was sic [sic]."

By anon42566 — On Aug 22, 2009

A very thorough and appropriate explanation. Thank you.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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