from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. An object produced or shaped by human craft, especially a tool, weapon, or ornament of archaeological or historical interest.
  • n. Something viewed as a product of human conception or agency rather than an inherent element: "The very act of looking at a naked model was an artifact of male supremacy” ( Philip Weiss).
  • n. A structure or feature not normally present but visible as a result of an external agent or action, such as one seen in a microscopic specimen after fixation, or in an image produced by radiology or electrocardiography.
  • n. An inaccurate observation, effect, or result, especially one resulting from the technology used in scientific investigation or from experimental error: The apparent pattern in the data was an artifact of the collection method.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An object made or shaped by human hand.
  • n. An object, such as a tool, weapon or ornament, of archaeological or historical interest, especially such an object found at an archaeological excavation.
  • n. Something viewed as a product of human conception or agency rather than an inherent element.
  • n. A structure or finding in an experiment or investigation that is not a true feature of the object under observation, but is a result of external action, the test arrangement, or an experimental error.
  • n. An object made or shaped by some agent or intelligence, not necessarily of direct human origin.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A product of human workmanship; -- applied esp. to the simpler products of aboriginal art as distinguished from natural objects.
  • n. Any product of human workmanship; -- applied both to objects made for practical purposes as well as works of art. It is contrasted to natural object, i.e. anything produced by natural forces without the intervention of man.
  • n. A structure or appearance in protoplasm due to death, method of preparation of specimens, or the use of reagents, and not present during life.
  • n. an object, oservation, phenomenon, or result arising from hidden or unexpected causes extraneous to the subject of a study, and therefore spurious and having potential to lead one to an erroneous conclusion, or to invalidate the study. In experimental science, artifacts may arise due to inadvertant contamination of equipment, faulty experimental design or faulty analysis, or unexpected effects of agencies not known to affect the system under study.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Anything made by art; an artificial product.
  • n. A natural object modified by human art.
  • n. Also artefactum.
  • Not natural, but produced by manipulation, as some microscopic feature in a hardened tissue.
  • Also spelled artefact.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a man-made object taken as a whole


Latin arte, ablative of ars, art; see art1 + factum, something made (from neuter past participle of facere, to make; see dhē- in Indo-European roots).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Alteration of artefact, from Italian artefatto, from Latin arte ("by skill"), (ablative of ars ("art")) + factum ("thing made"), from facere (Wiktionary)



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  • "An artifact is the product of a successful attempt to make a purposeless, useless, beautiful thing out of a past-tensed fact. It can never be art, and it can never be fact."

    --"Everything Is Illuminated" (Jonathan Safran Foer)

    August 3, 2009

  • I like the idea of an arty fact. Or an act of artif.

    September 26, 2007