What Does [sic] Mean?

By Maeve Maddox

Samm [sic] asks “What does [sic] mean?”

Sic in square brackets is an editing term used with quotations or excerpts. It means “that’s really how it appears in the original.”

It is used to point out a grammatical error, misspelling, misstatement of fact, or, as above, the unconventional spelling of a name.

For example, you might want to quote the printed introduction to a college catalog:

Maple Leaf College is well-known for it’s [sic] high academic standards.

Sic is the Latin word for “thus,” or “such.”

When John Wilkes Booth shot Abraham Lincoln and jumped from the balcony to the stage of Ford’s Theatre, he is said to have shouted “Sic semper tyrannis!” He meant “that’s what tyrants get;” literally, “Thus always to tyrants.”

Another common Latin expression you might come across is sic transit gloria mundi. It means “thus passes the glory of the world.” It’s a thought that might occur as one stands by a crumbling pyramid or where the Twin Towers once stood in New York City.

Where I grew up, people who wanted a dog to attack said “sic ’em!” I’ve seen it in a dictionary spelled “sick,” as in “sick him!” This use is first recorded in 1845 and may come from a dialectal version of seek, “to look for” or “to pursue.”

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107 Responses to “What Does [sic] Mean?”

  • venqax

    This is amazing. I had no idea that sic was so mysterious to so many, or that so many thought it was an abbreviation or an acronym. Why? It’s not capitalized. “Statement as citated”? Seriously? Not, “stated it’s ced”? or “seen in cartoon”?

  • Robert

    In quotes with multiple spelling, grammatical, and factual errors, are more than one “[sic]” required; perhaps following each error and at the end of the entire quote? I ask because I have found it necessary to quote a new Oval Office resident whose error-filled “speeches” and tweets are surpassed by only his broken mind and the thoughts it produces.
    Additionally, should not a comma appear after the word “asks”, prior to the quotation, as such: Samm [sic] asks, “What does [sic] mean?”
    Wonderful site and community.

  • Ben

    I always believed it was “Said In Citation”

  • Jesse

    Six years and counting! I found this thread when I wanted to confirm I was using [sic] correctly- which I wasn’t- I thought it was latin for “something like that” … for use when quoting the exact phrase wasn’t possible.

  • Nick

    [sic] also applies to incorrect statements of fact; it’s not limited to spelling errors.

  • Pay Paul

    5 years later Rich, I know. But that was funny.

  • Brettels

    Well it’s the wee hours of the morning and I’m trying to read a book instead i’m reading six years of comments about a 3 letter word that I wasn’t sure what it meant. I’ll never forget again.

    My kids always say “fully sic” as in great or awesome but i don’t think somehow this has any relevance to the conversation above. 😁

  • Alaric

    I have a clarification question. I’ve seen [sic] used in various contexts, or I believe I have, but am never quite sure where it should be placed. Does [sic] come before the mistake or following it? I guess that raises a lot of additional questions because there are times when an entire sentence is flawed. That begs the question: Does the sentence simply end with [sic] or begin with it?

  • Bela

    First of all, I love how long this thread has been active. I’m glad to know what ‘sic’ means. Secondly it reminds me of a crazy debate I had when a friend of mine who writes professionally was going crazy trying to explain to me where to put my punctuation. Inside the quotes or outside the quotes. I’m a visual artist and he was trying to clean up something i had to write. Hysterical, got rather heated. I preferred the British rules but apparently can’t use them over here. He said inside the country, inside the quotes, outside the country, outside the quotes. Still bugs me though. 😄

  • Adam

    [sic] is an abbreviation for ‘sic erat scriptum’ which is Latin for ‘thus it had been written’, meaning that the quote prior was transcribed as it was found in the original source, complete with errors, coloquialisms etc.

  • Arpit Roy

    Finally !!! Not knowing what ‘sic ‘meant was driving me crazy ! Thank You 🙂

  • Alice Wonders…

    When I was young, I thought the writer didn’t want to quote a swear word, so inserted [sic] in its’ place . Couldn’t for the the life of me imagine what it stood for (swearwords in contents?). After realizing that in context that didn’t always work, I defaulted to a vague idea that, turns out, applied pretty well (but still with no fitting acronym). I know that it’s Latin based, but keeping it simple, I’m now latching onto “Sentence in context” or “Statement in context” for my definition.
    Thank you for the educating and entertaining comments above 🙂

  • Mike Z.

    I also thought it was what it turned out to be, an error in spelling or quote somebody said, but it seems every time I see it, I can’t see what the error was in the first place. I look it over and think, “what’s the [sic] for? That made sense.”

  • Alex

    [Sics] years after the first comment on this site’s article and they [sic] keep coming (the comments and the people with them) Your article here has helped me conquer a small point in a disciplinary matter I am having. Although [sic] has been used in the report to state that is how it came from the original source (a statement), it also means that the incorrect original comment is actually in context to the message of the statement….and hence the message has been clarified rather than the incorrect term…which is handy 🙂 Cheers

  • venqax

    Michael,
    Nothing like a typo to bring us down to earth!
    So treu.

  • Marcia

    I had always assumed that sic represented “Spelling error Included Consciously!

  • JMarie

    Before reading this, I tried to figure out the meaning of (sic) – I thought the first two letters stood for “Spelling Intentionally…” but I couldn’t come up with what the “c” might’ve stood for except that whatever it was, must be a synonym for “incorrect.” I just couldn’t think of a synonym for “incorrect” that began with a “c”

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