Difference between Fictional and Fictitious

Key Difference: The term fictional refers to something that is related to fiction, i.e. particularly works of fiction, such as novels, poems, plays, etc. It is primarily related to creative writing. Whereas, fictitious has more of a negative connotation. It means to make up something; however it is commonly used in regard to dishonestly, such as make up a lie or a false story.

 The terms Fictional and Fictitious are often confusing. Which is the correct term to use? The main problem with these terms is the fact that they are actually very closely related. Both come from the same root word, fiction, which in turn comes from Old French, ficcion meaning dissimulation, ruse, and invention. Ficcion comes from the Latin fictionem, which is the accusative of fictio, meaning a making, fashioning, a feigning, a rhetorical or legal fiction.

Due to the fact that both terms, fictional and fictitious come from the same root word, it is only natural that they have similar definitions.  In fact, at their root the two terms mean the same thing, i.e. not true, made up. However, the terms differ in the manner that they are used. So, where to use which one?

The term fictional refers to something that is related to fiction, i.e. particularly works of fiction, such as novels, poems, plays, etc. It is primarily related to creative writing. Whereas, fictitious has more of a negative connotation. It means to make up something; however it is commonly used in regard to dishonestly, such as make up a lie or a false story. Also, it is more commonly used in regard to real life, as opposed to fictional.

Nonetheless, the two words are synonymous; they both mean made up, and they both are commonly used interchangeably. In fact, the term fictitious is actually derived from the term fictional. Both, in turn, derive from fictitious, which in turn comes from fiction.

Let’s look at an example that denotes the difference: Alice from Alice in Wonderland is my daughter’s favorite fictional heroine. Did you hear about that journalist that used fictitious elements in his story? The difference here is that the first sentence just indicates that Alice is fictional, i.e. made up, whereas the use of fictitious in the second sentence indicates dishonesty and cheating.

Comparison between Fictional and Fictitious:

 

Fictional

Fictitious

Definition (Oxford Dictionaries)

Relating to or occurring in fiction; invented for the purposes of fiction

Not real or true; imaginary or fabricated

Occurring in or invented for fiction

Part of speech

Adjective

Adjective

Etymology

From Old French ficcion ‎ (“dissimulation, ruse, invention”), from Latin fictionem, accusative of fictio ‎ (“a making, fashioning, a feigning, a rhetorical or legal fiction”), from fingere ‎ (“to form, mold, shape, devise, feign”).

Example

  • Romeo and Juliet are fictional characters.
  • Julius Cesar is a fictional play based on a real person.
  • Sherlock Holmes is a fictional character.
  • Hogwarts is a fictional school.
  • The man used a fictitious resume to obtain the job.
  • She made up a fictitious illness to stay at home.
  • He gave a fictitious name to the receptionist.
  • Gulliver is a fictitious character

Image Courtesy: fandomania.com, makeuseof.com

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