‘Artefact' vs 'Artifact': What's the Difference?

By Shanea Patterson, updated on January 13, 2023

Wondering which is the correct spelling of the word – ‘artefact’ or ‘artifact’? And what is the difference between the two? We’ll clear that up in this article, plus teach you how to use the correct word in a sentence.

In short, ‘artifact’ and ‘artefact’ both mean the same thing – objects that have historical value. The only difference is that ‘artifact’ is the American English spelling of the word and ‘artefact’ is the British English spelling of the word.

‘Artefact’ vs. ‘Artifact’: What’s the Difference?

As you just learned, the only difference between these two words is their spelling. They mean the exact same thing.

That means they can be used interchangeably.

‘Artifact’ or ‘Artefact’?

Depending on which audience you’re writing for, you could use either word. If you’re writing for an American audience, use ‘artefact.’

Use the alternative spelling of the word for British audiences.

Definition and Meaning of ‘Artefact’ and ‘Artifact’

So, what do these words mean exactly?

Well, according to Merriam-Webster, the words refer to an object, like a tool or ornament, that shows human work and represents a culture or a stage in the development of a culture.

In the medical industry, an artifact could also mean waves on an electrocardiogram that arise from sources other than the heart or brain.

A Brief History

The first known use of the word was in 1644, and it meant the same thing it does today.

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce ‘Artefact’ and ‘Artifact’

Unsure of how to pronounce the words? Here’s a short guide to pronunciation.

  • To pronounce either word, take a look at the phonetic spelling: AHR-TUH-FAKT.
  • The first syllable sounds like the sound a pirate makes: “Argh.”
  • The second syllable sounds like ‘duh.’
  • The final syllable has the short ‘a’ sound, similar to words like ‘cat.’

How to Use the Words in a Sentence

Now that we know what they mean and how to pronounce them let’s take a look at some examples of how to use them in a sentence.

  • Everyone wants to buy this old artifact from my dad, but he won’t sell it.
  • This museum has my favorite artifact – the tomb of King Tut.
  • That artifact costs more than you make in a year. How are you going to afford it?
  • I found an old artifact while out in the woods behind my house last week. I don’t know what it is yet.
  • This artifact is broken. Therefore, we’re taking it off display so it can be fixed.
  • I haven’t held an artifact this precious in my whole life. I hope I don’t break it.

Final Thoughts on ‘Artefact’ and ‘Artifact’

To recap, we learned that ‘artefact’ and ‘artifact’ both mean the same thing. They’re two different spellings of the same word. The former is the British English spelling of the word, and the latter is the American English spelling of the word. So, make sure you’re using the right word for the right audience.

If you ever get stuck, you can always come back here for a quick refresher. We’ve also got a ton of content other related to confusing words and phrases you might come across while learning the language.

Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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