ar·​ti·​fact ˈär-ti-ˌfakt How to pronounce artifact (audio)
: 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
: 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
: 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
: a product of artificial character (as in a scientific test) due usually to extraneous (such as human) agency
: an electrocardiographic and electroencephalographic wave that arises from sources other than the heart or brain
: 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
ˌär-ti-ˈfak-chə(-wə)l How to pronounce artifact (audio)

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 Some dismiss the hot reading as an artifact of annual price hikes, but the possibility that inflation is flaring up will keep markets jittery until further evidence. Bill Stone, Forbes, 18 Feb. 2024 The March 23 event — headed by a volunteer committee led by led by Pilar Parducci and Jung Yoon — will include fun artifacts from the era and memories of days filled with TV dinners, cruising El Camino Real and stopping by Clint’s Ice Cream with its big ice cream cone on the building’s roof. Sal Pizarro, The Mercury News, 17 Feb. 2024 These important books are not for them; many of them don’t have to be reminded that the comprehensive identification of Jewishness and uncritical support for Israel is an artifact of living memory. Gideon Lewis-Kraus, The New Yorker, 15 Feb. 2024 Recently, researchers performed radiocarbon testing on four artifacts held by a Catholic convent in Rome. Sonja Anderson, Smithsonian Magazine, 15 Feb. 2024 Archaeologists identified the artifact as a love token from medieval times. Aspen Pflughoeft, Miami Herald, 14 Feb. 2024 Through art, artifacts and photographs, museum visitors can learn about the fight for racial equality and full citizenship that unfolded in the 50 years following the Civil War. Molly Guthrey, Twin Cities, 7 Feb. 2024 Archaeologists found the mysterious artifact while excavating Hohle Fels Cave in 2015, according to a study published Jan. 31 in the journal Science Advances. Aspen Pflughoeft, Miami Herald, 6 Feb. 2024 In an experiment using a replica of the artifact, a small team of researchers successfully created a rope made from cattail reeds. Christian Thorsberg, Smithsonian Magazine, 2 Feb. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'artifact.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


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


variants or chiefly British artefact
: 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
: 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!