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 In the process, floorboards have been taken up, new elevators have been installed, and thousands of artworks and artifacts have been temporarily removed to allow the restoration work to get underway. Billy Stockwell, CNN, 12 July 2024 Filled with artifacts and attractions like the Funchal Cathedral, the Fortaleza de São Tiago, and a contemporary art museum, the city does an excellent job of nodding to its history while looking to the future. Christine Burroni, Travel + Leisure, 9 July 2024 The exhibit traces Hybe’s evolution and influence by showcasing artifacts from its roster of artists, creators and fans as well. Thania Garcia, Variety, 9 July 2024 The artifacts were intentionally buried and covered with a thick layer of ash. Aspen Pflughoeft, Miami Herald, 8 July 2024 See all Example Sentences for artifact 

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 25 Jul. 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
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