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 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 As Deadline recapped, meanwhile, in the 20th century, Jamie and Claire's daughter Brianna and historian Roger Wakefield find a historical artifact that does not bode well—and might lead to some Back to the Future-esque shenanigans. Emily Wang, Glamour, "The First Full Trailer For Outlander Season 4 Is Here and It's ... a Lot," 10 Sep. 2018 It's gotten so high that most Venetian museums closed for the day on October 29 to protect artifacts from the rising waters. Meredith Carey, Condé Nast Traveler, "How to Make the Most of Venice When it Floods," 2 Nov. 2018 Residue from one ceramic artifact estimated to be 5,310 to 5,440 years old tested positive for cacao by all three methods. Candice Choi, The Seattle Times, "How old is cacao? New research pushes back date," 31 Oct. 2018 Homeowners hoping to integrate large artifacts in their homes sometimes face a challenge finding someone to install them. Candace Taylor, WSJ, "Spending Big Bucks to Make a New House Look Old," 18 Oct. 2018 More than 500 artifacts have been recovered from the wreck and taken to the surface, according to Chinese officials. James Rogers, Fox News, "'Time capsule' warship wreck discovered," 27 Sep. 2018 The Post reported that few personal artifacts have been discovered in the burial sites, including a single ring. Jewel Wicker, Teen Vogue, "A Mass Grave of Former Slaves Was Unearthed in Texas," 20 July 2018 Some 80 stone tools and artifacts were found in 11 different layers of soil that provided a moist, damp environment, while 16 items were found under cooler, drier conditions. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Chinese Cave Tools Point To Earliest Known Human Migration," 13 July 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

28 Nov 2018

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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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