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

The first group of artifacts brought in more than $5.2 million, the auction house said. Robert Lee Hotz, WSJ, "Your Chance to Own a Piece of the Moon," 25 Nov. 2018 The effect tends to flicker in and out and have lots of strange artifacts. Jacob Kastrenakes, The Verge, "RED Hydrogen One review: all hype," 29 Oct. 2018 But a winning candidate 2020 will have to generate and own his or her own cultural artifact for the moment. Alexander Heffner, Time, "The American Historical Record Includes Court Cases, Famous Speeches—And Trump’s Tweets. Here’s Why That Matters," 2 July 2018 Two are decorated in dark brown tones that suggest the somber mood of the Civil War; their artifacts include a life mask of Abraham Lincoln and a blue-and-white punch bowl from the Lincoln White House. Blair Kamin,, "A wreck no more: $15 million renovation makes Illinois’ once-decrepit Executive Mansion shine again," 16 June 2018 By moving most of iFest from an outside venue to the Centre, exhibitors can feel safe that their cultural and family heirloom artifacts, clothing and other items will be protected from the weather, Center said. Janelle Walker, Elgin Courier-News, "Elgin's ifest set for this weekend with new date, location," 3 May 2018 Subtly and in many cases quite cleverly, the design of the museum avoids resource waste without diminishing the visitor experience or imperiling its artifacts. Ryan P. Smith, Smithsonian, "The African American History and Culture Museum Wins Gold for Going Green," 21 Apr. 2018 Roughly 40% of its archives, 20% of its library collection and 99% of its museum artifacts are moving. Meg Jones, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Wisconsin's attic is moving — Wisconsin Historical Society and Wisconsin Veterans Museum move collections," 20 Apr. 2018 The Seattle Police Department has returned to the Mexican government seven artifacts nearly sold off at a Capitol Hill estate sale last year. Heidi Groover, The Seattle Times, "Seattle police return artifacts found at estate sale to Mexican government," 21 Nov. 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

12 Dec 2018

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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a soft lustrous wool fabric with mohair

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