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Anglo-Norman and Middle French artificiel (French artificiel) skilfully made or contrived, brought about by human skill or intervention (1267 in Old French), cunning, seeking to deceive (1532), unspontaneous, affected (c1537) and its etymon classical Latin artificilis made or contrived by art (used by Quintilian in rhetorical context, translating ancient Greek ), in post-classical Latin also prescribed by art, scientific (4th or 5th cent.; 14th cent. in a British source), produced by human skill (from 9th cent. in British sources), skilled, artistic, involving craftsmanship (from 12th cent. in British sources) < artificium ARTIFICE n. + -lis -AL suffix1. Compare Old Occitan artificial (14th cent.), Catalan artificial (1272), Spanish artificial (c1250), Portuguese artificial (14th cent.), Italian artificiale (a1294).


  • A. Adjective.
I. Opposed to natural.
1. a. Of a thing: made or constructed by human skill, esp. in imitation of, or as a substitute for, something which is made or occurs naturally; man-made.
b. Originally: designating a device made to replace a missing or abnormal body part; = PROSTHETIC adj. 2. In later use also: designating a device or machine which performs or assists the function of an organ.
c. Designating a man-made object (real or imaginary) that is placed in orbit round a celestial object, in the manner of a natural planet or satellite.
2. a. Of a system, situation, etc.: brought about by human skill or intervention; that does not occur or result naturally, spontaneously, or in the expected manner. Also of an act or process: carried out by non-natural means.
b. Of a natural phenomenon: produced by or resulting from human skill or design.
c. Physics. Of nuclear transmutation and radioactivity: brought about (as by bombardment with subatomic particles), rather than natural or spontaneous; (of isotopes and elements) resulting from phenomena of this kind, not occurring naturally.
3. Not natural or genuine in appearance or manners; affected, pretentious.
4. a. Contrived or fabricated for a particular purpose, esp. for deception; resulting from artifice; feigned, fictitious.
b. Contract Bridge. Designating a bid or bidding system used to signal information about a player's hand to his or her partner by means of a prearranged convention.
5. Chiefly Biol. and Taxon. Designating a classification scheme based on characteristics selected primarily for pragmatic reasons, to enable identification and categorization of the things classified, rather than for any correspondence to natural affinities or essential characteristics; relating to such a system. Recorded earliest in artificial system
II. Of or relating to art or science.
6. According to the principles of an art or science; scientific, systematic. Now rare except in artificial music, used in translating or referring to the work of the 14th-cent. French poet Eustache Deschamps.
7. Of or designating the practical arts or crafts; (esp. of language) technical. Obs.
III. Displaying art or skill.
8. Displaying or characterized by artifice; artful, cunning. Obs.
9. a. Of a thing: skilfully made or contrived; cleverly constructed. Obs.
b. Of a person: skilled in an art or craft; technically or artistically adept. Obs.
10. Of workmanship, a method, etc.: displaying technical skill; expert, ingenious. Obs.
11. Logic. Of an argument: relying on sound rational principles as opposed to authority or testimony. Cf. INARTIFICIAL adj. 3. Now hist. Used only in reference to Ramist logic.
12. Displaying education or training; scholarly. Now rare.
  • B. Noun.
1. With the. That which is artificial. Freq. contrasted with NATURAL n.1 9b.
2. An artificial or man-made thing; a product of artifice. Usu. in pl. Now rare except in specific uses