Tic or Tick?

by Craig Shrives
The Quick Answer
What is the difference between tic and tick?

Tic is a noun denoting an involuntary twitch. For everything else, use tick.


The noun tic is an involuntary contraction of the muscles, usually in the face.

  • I have a number of violent tics. Tourette syndrome is not just compulsive actions but compulsive thoughts too. (Dash Mihok)
  • Tics are often invisible to the observer, such as abdominal tensing or toe crunching.


The word tick has many meanings.

Tick: A mark to show something is correct or completed.

  • Why isn't there a tick next to my name?
  • (This is an example of tick being used as a noun.)
  • The 'don't know' answer sometimes is the box you should tick. (Robin Ince)
  • (This is an example of tick being used as a verb.)
Tick: The noise made by a watch or a clock.

  • Time management is an oxymoron. Time is beyond our control, and the clock keeps ticking regardless of how we lead our lives. (John C Maxwell)
  • (This is an example of tick being used as a verb.)

  • The tick in my watch is driving me insane.
  • (This is an example of tick being used as a noun.)

  • Anyone who devotes time and attention to what makes people tick, to me, is a smart person. (Ron Silver)
  • (This is an example of tick being used figuratively.)
Tick: A noun meaning a short period of time.

  • He'll be back in a tick.
Tick: A noun denoting a small arachnid similar to a mite.

  • I know runners who have suffered a tick bite and ended up with Lyme disease. I'll take an angry moose any day. (Don Kardong)
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose?
What are nouns? What are verbs? What is figurative language? List of easily confused words