What Does [sic] Mean?

By Maeve Maddox - 2 minute read

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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.”

[sic] in newspapers

Bernheimer wrote: “Salonen isn’t one of those conductors who pretends ( sic ) not to read criticism.” And “Salonen is not one of those lofty musicians who believes ( sic ) that art can survive in a vacuum.” — LA Times

Remembr speling?

Neither does our president. In his first tweet as POTUS — posted at 11:57 a.m. on Jan. 21 — @realDonaldTrump tweeted, “I am honered [sic] to serve you, the great American People, as your 45th President of the United States!” (He later deleted the message.) — LA Times

In the handwritten letter, Corbett writes to Bullock: “You could of (sic) had me today however you choose other people over me. I’ll be around as you know. I love you.” — USA Today

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

  • Peter

    @Bob: It does “have a macron” (that is, it’s a long vowel; only beginners’ texts print macrons in Latin); there’s no such word as sic with a short vowel. (But it doesn’t mean “yes” either way. There is no word in Latin corresponding closely to English “yes”)

  • Open Cubicle Network

    Was [sic] used frequently with former President George W. Bush.

  • Jasmine

    Dear Sir

    Thank you so much for the explanation.

    I was seeing use of [sic] in news stories where a news quoted a twitter tweet and used [sic] at end of tweet and i wanted to know what it means and came here.

    Now I know what [sic] means but i am still confused as to what sic stands for.

    From the replies my guess is sic => scriptum in corporum

    or it can be Spelled InCorrectly or said in context.

    Is there a exact full form of sic ?

    Thanks.
    Jasmine

  • John

    I thought it meant “statement is citated”. As in a quote from a published source.

    Doh !

  • sonyablade

    Is “citated” a word? Cit-ta-ted? Is that how the above meant to type? Isn’t it cited? Aye, aye, aye, I know that I have been slacking on reading, altogether, but incorrect grammar is just sad:/

    @TONY- let me get this correct.
    [sic] (<– with just words in italics) – is for rewriting a quote when a word is ..mispelled (sp) <— however, you can use this for mispellings in any writings? Doesn't (sp) mean that the writing isn't a final draft or something you don't want to get graded if there is a editing symbol on the paper at all?
    (ph)<—– phonetic spelling when writing something that was spoken?
    I have noticed that when articles in magazines use brackets ex. [He] was so good in bed… the sentences wouldn't even make sense without the word within the bracket…so is that why the writer inserts the "[He]" … when writing the acticle so the reader can understand?
    ( ) <—— used for adding a comment to the sentence?
    Oh, and [] and () are not intrchngble?
    P.S. I love how text abbrevations encourage continued wrong spelling… I bet english is going to get worse w/ each generation..I know if I forgot how to spell a word or if "i" comes before "e"..thn I will just abbreviate it. Then I never remember to look it up, so when I may have to spell it again it's moer than likely going to be wrong and someone is going to make fun of me on Facebook. 🙁 From now on, proper gammar and spelling..

    What's the difference between " blah, blah" and 'blah, blah' ?
    quotation marks? are the single ones even supposed to be used? I use them sometimes (only but I'm driving and texting:P j/k. it's illegal in WI, nowadays! Thanks!

  • Mary

    I’m going to be the redneck of the group. I thought [sic] meant: sit in chair.

    This is the first time I have seen [sic], but after reading the article and everyone’s comments I feel I have a better understanding. Thanks everyone.

  • rich

    My dog just ate something awful and it’s made him sic [sic] 🙂

  • Tony

    I just thought I would check what it meant bud didn’t think I would see a whole debat on it…there must be something better to do with what I have left of my life – Life is too short people!

    T

  • Tony

    I just thought I would check what it meant bud didn’t think I would see a whole debate on it…there must be something better to do with what I have left of my life – Life is too short people!

    T

  • Mario

    Absolutely enlightening. You all have made my morning. I know, or think I finally understand the [sic] used in newspaper articles. Someone above wrote about using the [] at the beginning of a sentence or other seemingly wrong parts if a sentence. Regardless this has been a wonderful learning experience.

  • dirk dominic

    sic in latin is the short version of sicut which begins a simile and is usually translated as “as in or like”. The church latin “sicut in terra et in caelo” is a good illustration of the latin usage, but most classical latin writers use the short “ut” form. In verbal form it is used for confirmation with the meaning “and so it is…like the truth”

    the romance languages have continued its usage with “si” meaning “yes” or better “and so it is’.

  • Ewald Erasmus

    I was always under the impression, and really only through inference, and thus without having any Latin insight or knowledge, that (sic) means that the author of a scientific article at least, expresses a certain amount of doubt of the statement preceding the (sic), i.e. the author implies it is nonsense. Any thoughts about this angle?

  • Ewald Erasmus

    With reference to my previous comment – would “see in contexts” be an explanation?

  • Chad

    Erik – to be an idiot means that you know better and do it anyway – ignorant of the fact – is a better description of your knowledge in that instance. I did not know what [sic] stood for at all – so this actually has help expand my knowledge base. I have seen the use for years and never looked it up before. It is nice to know .

  • crystal

    I thought it stood for spelling isnt changed. 🙂 Guess I wasnt too far off the mark. Thanks for the Latin lessons!

  • Cheri Hoffer

    Thanks to everyone, as the whole discussion has been great fun! NO WONDER we have so many miscommunications with one another as humans, when so much is subjective with a single three letter word. My best to you all! CH

  • Robert

    Always thought it was an abbreviation for “Spelled InCorrectly”.
    I was about 50% right, I guess.

  • Bliss

    So basically if I say I luv u 4ever 😀 XOXO it will say (Sic) on the end, b/c I chose to write a bunch of crap instead of the actual letters. Other than that, saying sick at the end of statements is STUPID! It sounds so childish like the ever popular “that’s sick” phrase. Who comes up with this stuff? Some 25 year old who can’t let go of his childhood? And yes, I understand that sic is actually a Latin word but the person who decided to instate this punctuation law, for whatever reason, really is just trying to be trendy and kool. It’s really NOT that sick….

  • doofus

    It’s not always to do with spelling. Often times the editor just puts it in the make fun of what someone said.

  • doug swift of the tom swift swifts

    Well, I am impressed with the clever comments, intelligent references and interesting abbreviations. Abbreviations are definately the wave of the future as we sqz more and more wrds into smllr spaces. Eventually we will do away with all vwls, dble cnsnts, cptls, cs, qs, ys nd phs. thn th lngge wll b trly fcnt nt nly fcnt bt ls fctv. tn w wl b n th glrs ftr f – . thks l fr th wndrfl rtcl.

  • Yogesh Dutta

    exact meaning of sic

  • Peter

    I understand that sic is actually a Latin word but the person who decided to instate this punctuation law, for whatever reason, really is just trying to be trendy and kool. It’s really NOT that sick….

    It’s not “sick” anyway; it’s a long vowel — more like “seek”

  • Diana

    I accidently came across this website and I have been completely entertained for the last half hour. I knew what sic meant but for some reason I was compelled to continue reading through all the comments. Some were absolutely hilarious and others were just highly informative. It is Friday night around 12:30 a.m. and I am reading a website about grammar! I love it! It also proves that I must be getting old. A year ago I would have never guessed I would be doing this on a Friday night! However, since I am already here maybe someone could explain what brackets around a pronoun indicate. I see it often in my studies or just general reading. Seems like I see it around pronouns a lot.

  • Vally

    @Tony,
    I have enjoyed reading this debate, as you called it, so in saying life is too short is a rather sweeping and some what incorrect remark. If people enjoy something is that not living life well? I am an absolute duffer when it comes to English, caused by a head injury, it’s good to learn these things, again, and I have a sneaky suspicion you have like it also.
    Thankyou everyone I have found this very illuminating. [sic] (for any mistakes made)

  • Walter Coultrup

    Why did I read all of the above? I must be mad. The original article said it all. The rest was just waffle.

  • Eric M

    @sonyablade – single quotation marks (‘ ‘), or apostrophes, are properly used as such only when a quote or work of literature is used within another quote so as not to confuse the reader. For instance, if you were quoting your friend John who was quoting his friend Nathan, it would read: So John said, “Nathan’s note said, ‘Thank you’. That’s it.”

  • Tina

    Eric, I always thought it meant “spelling isn’t correct.” I noticed it was always entered after a misspelled word in a quotation and couldn’t think of anything else it would stand for lol.

  • Saurabh

    I started noticing the usage of [sic] in indian newspapers/magazines from few months and saw it mostly when they quote Twitter or Facebook update of a celebrity – so I implicitly assume that it is their way of reporting a smiley – until today when i decided to finally google it. I suppose I am the most ‘ignnorrannt’ [Sic] of all the folks here !!

  • Lu

    Rather conveniently [sic] can also be shorthand for “spelling incorrect”, that’s how i always think of it!

  • Ellen

    I also thought for years that it was “spelling incorrect,” but found out the truth many years ago. 😉

  • Sandokan

    Rod,
    If I still have a good memory of my latin classes in middle school back in Africa, here are some explanation of the acronyms you are interested in:

    1. i.e. stand for “idem est” meaning same as ;
    2. e.g. stand for “exempli gratia” meaning for example ;
    3. p.s. stand for “post scriptum” meaning a last note after the main text;
    4. sic … this article

  • Mike Lavelle

    @sonyablade… My experience with using single quotes (and this of course is off the main subject now) relates to computer programming. Single quotes usually enclose a single character (a “character” is a standard programming data type). Standard quotes enclose what is known as a “string”, another data type that is basically successive characters, the number of which can be many. The reason for their being is, memory is allocated differently for each data type – a small amount for a single char and a larger amount for a string.

  • Em

    I’m with Diana, totally entertaining and somewhat informative. (Except I am at work.)

  • mark

    as I often say (ad naseum) it’s all about semantics, so boo sucks to you if you think this is waffle

    I came here looking the ‘sic a dog on him’ usage, I think the Latin for ‘thus’ actually works in both contexts

    btw, anyone who reads the English satirical mag Private Eye is very familiar with it’s slightly sarcastic implication (“yes, that’s what the fool said”) when applied in quoting a politician’s prounouncements

  • Linz

    I seem to be the only one who also knows that “[sic]” is also the title of one of Grammy Award Winning heavy metal band Slipknot (often type set as SLIPKnoT) earler songs found on their self titled album Slipknot. although i doubt they were talking about spelling.

  • Arlene

    While reading a court transcript of my former husband’s testimony, I was amazed by the vast usage of: [sic].

    Honesty, I don’t understand why verbiage in the vernacular of the layman isn’t used for easier reading, nor am I an English major. ( Or perhaps this is just my ignorance speaking).

    I wasn’t taught about [sic] in school and am glad you have provided us with the translation for which I thank you.

  • Anurag Garg

    I think [sic] means still in conversation. This implies that the Quote taken from a larger piece of information and only relevant information is republished.

  • Yaddimahhada

    As I would have figured it, “[sic]” would be an abbreviation of
    “(the) scribe is correct.”
    (A scribe, being, of course, a person who copies down documents.)

    Given the context that [sic] appears in writing; and that, it is usually made implicit that the writer is quoting someone directly, it serves the purpose of informing the reader that the writer is not imbecile (which it does regardless of .)

    Of course as I’ve come to know English writing practices, most of these abbreviations come from Latin–which explains the “thus” explanation (which I don’t have the background to approve, or disaprove.)

    The fact of the matter is rather that, these “abreviations” aren’t just “latin.” They hold appreciable significance in both Latin,and English; and neither are truly correct, or incorrect.
    Think of “R.I.P.” Requiescat in pace. Rest in peace. Both are applicable, both are relevant. It’s not just one, or the other. It is both of them, as they occur to you, maybe simultaneously .

    They are both merely placeholders, symbols, that relay a significance in your mind, that reliably brings forth a concept from your personal well of knowledge, to assist you in advancing through your life–Preferably in a manner that keeps you alive long enough to ensure the continuation of the species. Such is the nature of the development of group dynamic, and means of communication, such as language, in the first place.
    still, I’m biased in favor of my “scribal competence” theory.

  • ½rican

    Yup. I too have discovered that it is 11:30 on a Friday night, and I am entertaining myself by reading the debate. I’ve only recently (in articles) noticed the [sic]; and like many others, I gathered that it meant ˝spelling is copied˝ or somthing like that. Fun site. Also, to all of the Latin arguments… I think that if the origin were a latin acranym, would it not have periods in between the letters? I.e “e.g. ,p.s.R.I.P. ect.? And YES. I am aware of at least half of MY spelling, gramatical (ph) and puncuation errors. Forgive me. Only 6 were on purpose. The rest I blame on typeing on my phone, KettleOne+RedBull, and of course none of this horribly crafted thread could not be possible, w/out help from the “NewOrleans public school system”

  • Tony

    Finally I found the answer to what I was searching since young. This term sic Is found very often in print media in my country. Cheer, tony

  • 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”

  • Marcia

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

  • venqax

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

  • 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

  • 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.”

  • 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 🙂

  • Arpit Roy

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

  • 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.

  • 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. 😄

  • 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?

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