ar·ti·fact also ar·te·fact (ärtə-făkt′)
1. An object produced or shaped by human craft, especially a tool, weapon, or ornament of archaeological or historical interest.
2. Something viewed as a product of human conception or agency rather than an inherent element: "Morality is an artifact of human culture, devised to help us negotiate social relations" (Michael Pollan).
3. A phenomenon or feature not originally present or expected and caused by an interfering external agent, action, or process, as an unwanted feature in a microscopic specimen after fixation, in a digitally reproduced image, or in a digital audio recording.
4. 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.
[Latin arte, ablative of ars, art; see ART1 + factum, something made (from neuter past participle of facere, to make; see dhē- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots).]
ar′ti·factu·al (-făkch-əl) adj.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.