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Artefact vs. Artifact

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While exploring ancient ruins and forgotten temples, archaeologists and adventures love to stumble upon relics of a long-dead culture. Some of these objects have incredible cultural significance, while others are worth huge sums of money to collectors. Some are merely trinkets or curios to be displayed on a shelf, and serve as conversation pieces. There is a word for such objects, but how should it be spelled? Some writers prefer artefact, while others use artifact.

Like many such differences, this one can be attributed to spelling conventions in British and American English. British writers prefer one spelling, and Americans use the other. Continue reading to discover who uses which word.

Origin:

The word artefact originated in early 19th century: from Latin arte ‘by or using art’ + factum ‘something made’ (neuter past participle of facere ‘make’).

Artefact as noun:

Artefact is used as a noun in English language which means an object made by a human being, typically one of cultural or historical interest.

They collected gold and silver artefacts from the site.

Artefact is also something that is observed in a scientific investigation or experiment that is not naturally present but occurs as a result of the preparative or investigative procedure.

The curvature of the surface is an artefact of the wide-angle view.

Use of Artefact:

Artefact is the British spelling of the noun and should be used if you belong to Britain, prefer Britain or are addressing British people. These are the older and original spellings of the word and are also used in countries like Australia and New Zealand.

Examples:

Some bandits had made off with a golden artefact owned by the local storekeeper and with the aid of a new found ally … [Guardian]

The price of the most expensive oriental artefact ever sold at auction in Ireland. [Irish Times]

The best-known artefact is the teenage monarch’s gold funerary mask, which stares out from a case on the first floor of the museum. [The Age (Australia)]

Use of Artifact:

Artifact are the American spellings of the noun and if you are writing for an American audience, you will want to use the spelling artifact. Also if you are an American by origin, you might want to use these spellings.

Examples:

The sudden suicide of an artifact-dealer with ties to the cult draws the attention of an ambitious female police detective-inspector. [Wall Street Journal]

Buried artifacts, preserved in the ashes, are coming to light. [Montreal Gazette]

One artifact of Obama’s “leading from behind” foreign policy is a sense that many of our allies had it coming … [National Review Online]

Artefact or artifact:

Artefact and artifact are two versions of the same noun. They are only differentiated by the communities in which they are used. Both spellings refer to a man-made object of cultural or historical significance. Artefact is the British English spelling. Artifact is the American English spelling. You can remember to use artefact with British audiences since artefact and England both contain the letter E. Stick with artifact for American audiences. Now you know whether you should choose artifact or artefact, depending on your intended audience

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"Artefact vs. Artifact." Grammar.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2017. Web. 20 Nov. 2017. <http://www.grammar.com/artefact_vs._artifact>.

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