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Alteration of artefact, from Italian artefatto, from Latin arte (by skill) (ablative of ars (art)) + factum (thing made) (from facio (to make, do)).



artifact (plural artifacts)

  1. An object made or shaped by human hand.
  2. An object made or shaped by some agent or intelligence, not necessarily of direct human origin.
  3. Something viewed as a product of human agency or conception rather than an inherent element.
    • (Can we date this quote by Philip Weiss and provide title, author’s full name, and other details?)
      The very act of looking at a naked model was an artifact of male supremacy.
    • 2019, Li Huang; James Lambert, “Another Arrow for the Quiver: A New Methodology for Multilingual Researchers”, in Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, DOI:10.1080/01434632.2019.1596115, page 6:
      Overall the signage at NIE has the appearance being a top-down artefact driven by institutional policy with English set as the default language.
  4. A finding or structure 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.
    The spot on his lung turned out to be an artifact of the X-ray process.
  5. (archaeology) An object, such as a tool, ornament, or weapon of archaeological or historical interest, especially such an object found at an archaeological excavation.
    The dig produced many Roman artifacts.
    • 2017, John Oliver, “North Korea”, in Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, season 4, episode 21, written by Tim Carvell; Josh Gondelman; Dan Gurewitch; Jeff Maurer; Ben Silva; Will Tracy; Jill Twiss; Seena Vali; Julie Weiner, HBO, Warner Bros. Television:
      Holy shit! It is fascinating when a country’s culture seeps even into their math lessons, although it’s not really surprising. As a British child, our math questions were “if Johnny has two artifacts and Dinesh has two artifacts, then how many artifacts is Johnny about to have?” The answer, of course, “all the artifacts, Dinesh’s family can come visit them in a British museum whenever they’re in town.”
  6. (biology) An appearance or structure in protoplasm due to death, the method of preparation of specimens, or the use of reagents, and not present during life.
  7. (computing) A perceptible distortion that appears in an audio or video file or a digital image as a result of applying a lossy compression algorithm.
    This JPEG image has been so highly compressed that it has unsightly compression artifacts, making it unsuitable for the cover of our magazine.

Usage notes[edit]

The spelling artifact is preferred by most American dictionaries, while artefact is the preferred spelling in Australia’s Macquarie Dictionary with artifact listed as a variant.

Alternative forms[edit]

  • artefact (Australian and British spelling)


Further reading[edit]