SIC Meaning: Here’s What it Means and How to Use it?

Wondering about the meaning of SIC? Read on to discover its varying definitions, background, synonyms, acronyms, and more!

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SIC (pronounced as “sik”) can be a tricky little word. It can stand beside grammar and spelling errors lurking in between quotation marks, and it has been doing so since the middle of the 19th century. While it is still seen today in written publications, many people still wonder what it is and — simply put — what its meaning is.

There are a few ways to define sic, from the Latin term we see in brackets to the chiefly Scottish sic all the way to the English sic. Let’s learn a bit more about this versatile word.

What Does SIC Mean?

As stated by Collins English Dictionary, the definition of sic can be one of a few things:

  • A verb meaning “to entice/urge to attack” or “to attack” (pursuit and harassment can also be used in this definition)
  • An adverb denoting that something is quoted as is (mainly used for mentioning grammatical mistakes, incorrect spelling(s), and apparent errors)
  • A synonym for a Scottish word meaning such 

Varying Definitions of SIC

If you happen to be reading this from Scotland, you may be aware that sic is a synonym or another way of saying “such.” That being said, the sic you see in the quoted text marks a grammatical error or even a spelling error. 

SIC here is the Latin form, an adverb that means the words quoted were quoted verbatim to the source (spelling and grammatical errors intact). In Latin, this literally translates to so, in this way, or thus.

The first use of the Latin adverb sic as an adverb to indicate intentional misspelling in the English language was in the late 1850s. 

Lastly, if you are referencing the dictionary of the English language, you will see sic defined as a verb, meaning “to entice to attack” or “to attack something or someone” and is unrelated to the Latin sic. This form is actually an alteration of the verb “seek.”

What Are Backryonms of SIC?

When an acronym is deliberately formed from a phrase whose initial letters spelled out a particular word or, at times, word, these can be used as a fanciful explanation of the word’s origin or just to create a memorable name; these acronyms are actually backroynms.

Sic has quite a few of its own backroynms, from “said in copy” to “spelling is correct” or even “spelled incorrectly.”

What Is the Correct Usage of SIC?

While sic is usually found in between parentheses or brackets, another proper use is to simply put it in italicized text. While writing a paper or you want to quote someone, but you happen to notice the source material contains a grammatical or spelling error, you MAY use sic to denote the error simply by placing it right after the quoted mistake. 

This will let your peers and readers alike know that the error was not made on your part.

A cautionary tale: First off, when using sic to flag a mistake, make sure that it is really an error and not simply an unconventional spelling of the word or a spelling difference between British English and American English (consider all of the spelling differences just between these two). 

The easy rule here is if you’re ever feeling unsure, double-check it before you sic it.

Some of your readers and peers may consider the usage of sic bad form, primarily since you are using these to point out the mistakes of others. Though, this is mainly due to its misapplication time and time again. 

That being said, if you were to not point them out, these mistakes you were able to pinpoint may be looked on as your own; use your better judgment here. 

Another little rule of thumb here: If it’s obvious you’re quoting some tweet or some social media posts that happen to be chalked full of mistakes, marking every single one with sic may come across as mocking the writer. 

Alternate Applications of SIC in Writing

While we are on the topic of tactful usage of sic, there are several alternate applications of sic when proofreading articles and papers. Since some may perceive even the proper usage of sic as an unnecessary call-out, below are three alternatives that you can utilize on your next proofreading session in lieu of sic:

  • Recte: The Latin word meaning “rightly” is a clear cut substitute for sic. Similarly to sic, you need just place “recte” inside square brackets, followed immediately by the proper spelling of the phrase or word. (E.G. Scotty simpleyy [simply] does not know what is going on with me and Fiona behind his back.)
  • Replace: You can simply replace any misspelled or incorrectly phrased statements with some simple copy editing. In such circumstances, placing the proper word in square brackets is an option. (E.G. Bridget was not just running but flat out sprinting [towards] the coffee shop on the corner to get her fix.)
  • Paraphrase: If the source material is properly credited, and only then, you may simply paraphrase the source material. While the source may contain typos, grammatical errors, or incorrect slang, instead of using sic, just paraphrase the source. 

In Closing 

Whether you’re using sic in reference to the Latin adverb sic, meaning “thus,” or the English “sic ’em,” hopefully, after reading this article, you can properly differentiate between the varying definitions. This way, you can avoid the improper usage of the term sic. In academic writing and verbal chats, the term sic can be used in a number of ways. 

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  1. Sic Definition & Meaning | 
  2. Sic definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary
  3. Backronym Definition & Meaning |