The origin and meaning of [sic]

The bracketed Latin term tells readers that a particular error appeared in the source material and was not an oversight by the later text’s editor or transcriber. Here’s how to use it properly.

“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 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 it means, “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 near a crumbling pyramid.

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.”

A version of this article originally appeared on Daily Writing Tips.

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