Ask Difference

Historical vs. Fictional — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman & Fiza Rafique — Published on September 28, 2023
Historical refers to real events, people, or periods, while Fictional pertains to invented or imaginary subjects.
Historical vs. Fictional — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Historical and Fictional


Key Differences

Historical generally means something relating to past events or records. This term often signifies something factual or based on real events. Fictional, on the other hand, refers to something created from the imagination and is not based on fact.
When discussing literature, a historical novel would be based on actual events, even if the characters are sometimes fictional. A fictional novel could be set in any time or place and its narrative is not confined to historical accuracy.
In the field of film and television, historical dramas strive to portray real-life events as accurately as possible. Fictional shows, however, have the creative freedom to explore imaginary worlds, characters, and scenarios.
Historical research involves the critical study of past events and often requires supporting evidence like documents, artifacts, or interviews. Fictional writing doesn't rely on factual support but is generally driven by the writer's creativity.

Comparison Chart




Documents, interviews, records
Creative imagination


Limited to real events
Unlimited possibilities

Academic Rigor

Requires citation
No citation required


Accuracy is paramount
Accuracy is not a concern

Compare with Definitions


Pertaining to the Past
The historical monument commemorates a significant battle.


The fictional account was engaging but incorrect.


The historical study focused on ancient texts.


The fictional character was relatable but not real.


Based on Reality
The historical account was backed by evidence.


The fictional world was filled with mythical creatures.


The historical document was used in research.


Not Factual
The story was fictional and didn't happen.


The historical biography traces the life of a famous scientist.


The category of literature, drama, film, or other creative work whose content is imagined and is not necessarily based on fact.


Of or relating to history; concerned with past events
A historical account.


Works in this category
The fiction of Virginia Woolf.


Based on past events or set in the past
A historical novel.


A work within this category
The shorter fictions of Faulkner.


Used in or providing evidence of the past
Historical costumes.
Historical records.


Narrative, explanatory material, or belief that is not true or has been imagined or fabricated
The notion that he was at the scene of the crime is pure fiction.


Concerned with phenomena as they change through time
A historical dictionary.


A narrative, explanation, or belief that may seem true but is false or fabricated
"Neutrality is a fiction in an unneutral world" (Howard Zinn).


Important or famous in history. See Usage Note at historic.


(Law) A verbal contrivance that is in some sense inaccurate but that accomplishes a purpose, as in the treatment of husband and wife as one person or a corporation as an entity.


Of, concerning, or in accordance with recorded history, (particularly) as opposed to legends, myths, and fictions.
July 4, 1776, is a historic date. A great deal of historical research has been done on the events leading up to that day.
The historical works of Lord Macaulay and Edward Gibbon are in and of themselves historic.


Invented, as opposed to real.
Romeo and Juliet are fictional characters.
The janitor's account of the crime turned out to be entirely fictional.


About history; depicting persons or events from history.


Containing invented elements.
The Simpsons is a fictional television show.


Of, concerning, or in accordance with the past generally.


Pertaining to, or characterized by, fiction; fictitious; romantic.


Set in the past.


Related to or involving literary fiction;
Clever fictional devices
A fictional treatment of the train robbery


(uncommon) Former, erstwhile; lapsed, nominal.


Formed or conceived by the imagination;
A fabricated excuse for his absence
A fancied wrong
A fictional character
Used fictitious names
A made-up story


(grammar) One of various tenses or moods used to tell about past events, historic (tense).


The fictional technology in the movie amazed audiences.


Synonym of hereditaryor evolutionary.


Of, concerning, or in accordance with the scholarly discipline of history.
The Royal Historical Society
The State Historical Society of Wisconsin


Done in the manner of a historian: written as a development over time or in accordance with the historical method.


(uncommon) historic: important or likely to be important to history and historians.


Forming compound adjectives with the meaning "historical/~" or "historically":


A historical romance.


Of or relating to the study of history;
Historical scholars
A historical perspective


Having once lived or existed or taken place in the real world as distinct from being legendary;
The historical Jesus
Doubt that a historical Camelot every existed
Actual historical events


Belonging to the past; of what is important or famous in the past;
Historic victories
Historical (or historic) times
A historical character


Used of the study of a phenomenon (especially language) as it changes through time;
Diachronic linguistics

Common Curiosities

Is a historical event true?

Yes, a historical event is generally considered to be factual.

Can a fictional event become historical?

No, fictional events are inventions and cannot become factual.

Do fictional works require factual accuracy?

No, fictional works are not required to be factually accurate.

What does Historical mean?

Historical refers to actual past events or periods.

What does Fictional mean?

Fictional pertains to imaginary or invented subjects.

What is a fictional narrative?

A fictional narrative is a story created from the author's imagination.

What is a fictional novel?

A fictional novel is a book that tells an invented story.

Do fictional stories always need a setting?

No, but a setting often helps ground a fictional story.

Can historical works contain fictional elements?

Yes, some historical works can include fictional characters or dialogue.

What is a historical document?

A historical document is a record that provides factual information about the past.

How is historical data collected?

Historical data is often collected through research, interviews, and examining records.

Is every historical statement true?

Not necessarily; historical statements should be backed by evidence for credibility.

Are fictional worlds unlimited?

Yes, fictional worlds are limited only by the creator's imagination.

What is a historical novel?

A historical novel is a fictional story set against a backdrop of real events.

Can historical texts be entertaining?

Yes, historical texts can be crafted in an engaging manner.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.

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