artifact

noun

ar·​ti·​fact ˈär-ti-ˌfakt How to pronounce artifact (audio)
1
a
: 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
2
a
: 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
artifactual
ˌär-ti-ˈfak-chə(-wə)l How to pronounce artifact (audio)
-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.

Example Sentences

The caves contained many prehistoric artifacts. an artifact from the Colonial period
Recent Examples on the Web Without the backing of a mathematical proof, the value of the vorticity might only seem to be increasing to infinity because of some artifact of the simulation. Jordana Cepelewicz, Quanta Magazine, 16 Nov. 2022 The city is more than 80% Black, an artifact of white flight that began in the 1980s, after its public schools were integrated. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 7 Sep. 2022 After days spent pondering the wreckage of the present, Chilpik’s forsaken clay seemed less like an artifact of distant events, more an echo. Henry Wismayer, Anchorage Daily News, 30 Aug. 2022 Negotiations took place between Guatemala, the French government, UNESCO and the private collector, the spokesperson said, and the collector ultimately decided to return the artifact to Guatemala. Harmeet Kaur, CNN, 26 Oct. 2021 The piece is both an artifact of the production and a metaphor for its sensibility. Chris Klimek, Smithsonian Magazine, 20 Sep. 2022 All your gear will be the same power level, and that power will be gained from the artifact and a giant XP pool. Paul Tassi, Forbes, 16 Aug. 2022 Created for television by head writer Bisha K. Ali, the six-episode series is an origin story that sees Kamala, a Pakistani American teen living in Jersey City, N.J., acquire superpowers from a mysterious family artifact. Tracy Brownstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 8 June 2022 Everyone’s still borrowing from an artifact that was developed by coal miners 100 years ago. Kelly Bastone, Outside Online, 9 July 2018 See More

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.

Word History

Etymology

borrowed from New Latin arte factus "made by human agency," from Latin arte "by skill or craft" (ablative of art-, ars "acquired skill, craftmanship") + factus, past participle of facere "to make, bring about, do" — more at art entry 1, fact

Note: The usual American spelling artifact—opposed to artefact in the British Isles and elsewhere—shows assimilation to Latin compounds with arti- (see artifice).

First Known Use

1644, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of artifact was in 1644

Dictionary Entries Near artifact

Cite this Entry

“Artifact.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/artifact. Accessed 7 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

artifact

noun

ar·​ti·​fact ˈärt-i-ˌfakt How to pronounce artifact (audio)
: a usually simple object (as a tool or ornament) showing human work and representing a culture or a stage in the development of a culture

Medical Definition

artifact

noun

ar·​ti·​fact
variants or chiefly British artefact
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
artifactual adjective
or chiefly British artefactual
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!


The Great British Vocabulary Quiz

  • union jack speech bubble
  • Named after Sir Robert Peel, what are British police called?
Name That Thing

You know what it looks like… but what is it called?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ