ar·​ti·​fact | \ ˈär-ti-ˌfakt \

Definition of artifact

1a : a usually simple object (such as a tool or ornament) showing human workmanship or modification as distinguished from a natural object especially : an object remaining from a particular period caves containing prehistoric artifacts
b : something characteristic of or resulting from a particular human institution, period, trend, or individual … morality is an artifact of human culture, devised to help us negotiate social relations.— Michael Pollan
c : something or someone arising from or associated with an earlier time especially when regarded as no longer appropriate, relevant, or important … that over-simplified but eloquent quality that keeps Jefferson alive for us while Washington and Adams, his superiors in so many other respects, are artifacts of a quaint and lost world.— Jack Rakove
2a : a product of artificial character (as in a scientific test) due usually to extraneous (such as human) agency
b : an electrocardiographic and electroencephalographic wave that arises from sources other than the heart or brain
c : a defect in an image (such as a digital photograph) that appears as a result of the technology and methods used to create and process the image … can produce a very good picture, but there will be some loss of detail and some color artifacts such as adjacent colors bleeding into each other.Consumer Reports

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Other Words from artifact

artifactual \ ˌär-​ti-​ˈfak-​chə(-​wə)l , -​ˈfak-​shwəl, -​chü-​əl \ adjective

Did You Know?

One of the things that make humans unique is their ability to make and use tools, and ever since the first rough stone axes began to appear about 700,000 years ago, human cultures have left behind artifacts from which we've tried to draw a picture of their everyday life. The roots of artifact mean basically "something made with skill;" thus, a mere stone that was used for pounding isn't an artifact, since it wasn't shaped by humans for its purpose—unlike a ram's horn that was polished and given a brass mouthpiece and was blown as part of a religious ritual.

Examples of artifact in a Sentence

The caves contained many prehistoric artifacts. an artifact from the Colonial period

Recent Examples on the Web

Don’t expect any sleepy tours of dusty artifacts here, either. Juliet Izon, Country Living, "7 Patriotic Sights to Take In on the Ultimate Philadelphia Road Trip," 15 Nov. 2018 Astroarchaeology doesn’t involve digging up ancient artifacts on Mars (yet!). Rob Reid, Ars Technica, "Ars Lunch Break: Spying out ancient ruins on Earth from space," 31 Oct. 2018 Among artifacts on display will be the two paintings, which once belonged to Rochambeau and hung in his home with a portrait of Washington by Charles Willson Peale, also part of the exhibition. Alice George, Smithsonian, "The American Revolution Was Just One Battlefront in a Huge World War," 28 June 2018 The closest thing to an original Cobain artifact on display was a couch that the teenager slept on while staying for about a year in 1985 at the home of LaMont and Barbara Shillinger. Erik Lacitis, The Seattle Times, "Huge Aberdeen fire steals thousands of pieces of town history, including a Kurt Cobain exhibit," 16 June 2018 Instead, the first artifact on view in this well-imagined and surprisingly wide-ranging new temporary exhibition is a wooden sled. Steve Johnson,, "'Antarctic Dinosaurs' bring new ice age to Field Museum," 13 June 2018 Many of the vehicles and other artifacts on display are actual props from the movies. Arthur Levine, USA TODAY, "Universal Orlando's Fast & Furious – Supercharged: Does it live up to the movies?," 14 May 2018 Nearly 50 people turned out Thursday night to urge the Edgerton City Council not to send the rusty artifact on U.S. 56 to the scrap heap. Lynn Horsley, kansascity, "Half-car fans rally to save Kansas town's gag landmark, suggest moving it to museum | The Kansas City Star," 27 Apr. 2018 There’s alsoa selection of ancient works that inspired the artist, from centuries-old carved African figures owned by the BMA to ancient Greek artifacts on loan from the Walters Art Museum. Mary Carole Mccauley,, "In Baltimore Museum of Art exhibit, Jack Whitten’s sculptures explore the life of the renowned painter," 20 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'artifact.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of artifact

1644, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for artifact

Latin arte by skill (ablative of art-, ars skill) + factum, neuter of factus, past participle of facere to do — more at arm, do

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Statistics for artifact

Last Updated

10 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for artifact

The first known use of artifact was in 1644

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More Definitions for artifact


variants: or chiefly British artefact \ ˈärt-​ə-​ˌfakt \

Medical Definition of artifact

1 : a product of artificial character due to extraneous (as human) agency specifically : a product or formation in a microscopic preparation of a fixed tissue or cell that is caused by manipulation or reagents and is not indicative of actual structural relationships
2 : an electrocardiographic and electroencephalographic wave that arises from sources other than the heart or brain

Other Words from artifact

artifactual or chiefly British artefactual \ ˌärt-​ə-​ˈfak-​chə(-​wə)l, -​ˈfaksh-​wəl \ adjective

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More from Merriam-Webster on artifact

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with artifact

Spanish Central: Translation of artifact

Nglish: Translation of artifact for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of artifact for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about artifact

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