Periodic vs. Periodical – Origin, Usage and Examples

Why do some words have more than one version? I always thought it was a weird idea to begin with, but it makes sense when you learn more about it. For instance, is there a difference between periodic and periodical? 

The answer is yes. These words differ in the parts of speech they belong to and their definitions

Read on to understand when to use periodic and periodical. You’ll also learn how to use these words in a sentence. 

Periodic vs. Periodical

Periodic vs Periodical Ngram
Trend of the words periodic and periodical through the years.

Periodic and periodical are two words with different meanings. One refers to appearing at intervals, while the other means a magazine or newspaper published at intervals. 

This pair of words is one of the many confusing terms that end in -ic and -ical. Some examples include economic and economical, historic and historical, and metaphoric and metaphorical. These pairs either have the same meanings or not. 

What Does Periodic Mean?

Periodic is an adjective that means happening at regular intervals. Adjectives are parts of speech that describe or modify a noun or pronoun.

When a town bell rings every 6 PM, then there’s a periodic ring of the bell. It’s similar to its adverb form, periodically, which means regularly or repeatedly. 

Other words for periodic include regular, recurrent, recurring, repeated, cyclical, seasonal, and infrequent. 

This adjective can also mean relating to the periodic table of elements or the pattern of chemical properties. 

A less common use of the adjective means relating to a rhetorical period. 

What Does Periodical Mean?

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Periodical is mostly used as a noun referring to a magazine or newspaper published at regular intervals. Nouns are names of places, persons, things, and events. 

In other words, a periodical is a periodic publication because it is published periodically. These magazines usually have a specific focus and may contain personal stories, opinions on issues, and news. 

Other words for periodical include journal, publication, magazine, paper, review, newspaper, digest, gazette, newsletter, or book. 

Some people also consider periodical an adjective with the same meaning as periodic. It refers to occurring at intervals. Another word for periodical is occasional. 

Periodic and Periodical Origin

Periodic and periodical come from the root word period. Its primary origin is the French word périodique. It also comes from the Medieval Latin word, periodicus, meaning cyclical and the Latin word periodus, meaning complete sentence, circuit, or period. 

How to Use Periodic in a Sentence

Here are some examples of periodic sentences. 

  • My condition is getting better. My periodic attacks have become infrequent and more tolerable. 
  • I’ll never get used to these periodic announcements.
  • Experts have yet to analyze the periodic fluctuations in the Mediterranean Sea.
  • The Ministry of Culture, in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), organised on Sunday a training workshop and a panel discussion on the methods of preparing periodic reports under the 2003 convention concerning the safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention in Qatar, QNA reported. [Gulf Times]
  • The measurements show that flerovium is the most volatile metal in the periodic table. Flerovium is thus the heaviest element in the periodic table that has been chemically studied. [Science X]

How to Use Periodical in a Sentence

Here are some examples of periodical in a sentence. 

  • The news company is canceling its fashion periodical due to current financial issues.
  • Lana was a contributor to the periodical during college. 
  • The school’s periodical title is similar to the town newspaper’s title. 
  • The Society is a global leader in promoting excellence in science education and providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple research solutions, peer-reviewed journals, scientific conferences, eBooks and weekly news periodical Chemical & Engineering News. [Eurekalert]

Remembering the Difference

It’s relatively easy to remember that periodic is an adjective while periodical is a noun. But if you’re still having trouble, here’s a trick I use to help you remember the difference.

The shorter term complements the longer part of the speech. That means the short word, periodic, complements the longer part of speech, adjective. Therefore, periodic is an adjective.

The same is true with the longer word, periodical, which is a noun. It’s better not to use this term as an adjective. 

Another trick is to memorize this statement: A periodical is a periodic publication.

Periodic and Periodical Are Not The Same

By now, you should already know the difference between periodic and periodical. Use periodic when referring to the adjective that means occurring at intervals. But if you’re referring to a magazine or newspaper, use periodical. 

To memorize the difference, just remember this statement: A periodical is a periodic publication.Which pair of -ic and -ical adjectives confuse you?