Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I want to say "anatomical context". Google tells me that anatomical in that context is preferred. An online dictionary claimed that American English does not have anatomic but only knows anatomical.

share|improve this question
1  
As you mention, I think the only difference would be regional, professional, or some other preference. I've never taken an anatomy class, but the few biology professors I had routinely alternated between the two without hesitation. Both are adjectives meaning the same thing. –  jboneca Apr 4 at 15:05
1  
Perhaps anatomic is used where anatomical would cause difficulty, e.g. anatomic alterations sounds better than anatomical alterations, due to the removal of repeated al –  mjsqu Apr 4 at 15:12

3 Answers 3

As per the FreeDictionary, Actually, suffices al and ic have very similar meaning:

Of, relating to, or characterized by

When we have a root phys or physio, we get derived words like physic (which led to physics) and physical. Similarly, we have another root eco, we get economic and economical. Logically, they are same because ic and al are interchangable. But for historical reasons, they have stood the test of time. So, they are here to stay.

The same reason applies for anatomic and anatomical. However, given the same meaning of these suffices, anatomic is better than anatomical on having the lesser number of suffices.

share|improve this answer
    
Fewer suffices isn't a reason to choose one over the other. Physics and physical, economic and economical are subtly different. –  mjsqu Apr 4 at 16:56
    
However, I rarely see 'anatomic' used without the 'al' so I can only assume they are the same. –  mjsqu Apr 4 at 17:03
2  
The suffix is usually referred to by grammarians as -ic(al) because there is unpredictable alternation between the two forms -ic and -ical, and there is no difference in meaning. Most of these show up on Latin borrowings -- the suffixes are Latin adjective suffixes, and sometimes a form with -al was borrowed into English, and sometimes not. There's no way to predict, and most people use them interchangeably, or prefer one over another because of their speech experience. In fact, most people don't notice. –  John Lawler Apr 4 at 17:38

There is no difference in meaning or usage aside from regional preferences. The first online dictionary I checked simply redirected "anatomic" to "anatomical".

If you are curious about specific usage comparisons you can use Google's NGram viewer:

Short summary, "anatomical" is much more common.

share|improve this answer

The adjectives in -ic or -ical are a sector without any system. You find all sorts of types:

1 Both forms are possible without any difference.

2 Both forms are possible with a difference - historical, historic.

3 Only one form is possible - logical, not: logic.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.