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Artificial vs. Synthetic: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
Artificial refers to something made by humans rather than occurring naturally; synthetic often describes materials made by chemical synthesis.
Artificial vs. Synthetic

Key Differences

Artificial is a term broadly applied to anything that is made by humans rather than occurring in nature. It can refer to objects, materials, or processes that are man-made or manufactured. Synthetic, while similar, specifically refers to substances that are chemically produced to imitate a natural product. While all synthetic items are artificial, not all artificial items are synthetic, as they may not involve chemical processes in their creation.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Nov 08, 2023
Artificial extends to a wide array of items, from intelligence to flowers, indicating that they are not genuine or natural but have been created to replicate something that exists in nature. Synthetic, on the other hand, is typically used in the context of materials or chemicals, like synthetic rubber or synthetic fabrics, which are created through chemical synthesis to simulate a natural substance or material.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 08, 2023
In terms of their connotation, artificial can sometimes carry a negative implication, suggesting something is not only man-made but also inferior to the natural version. Synthetic doesn't inherently have this connotation and is often used in a neutral or even positive sense within industries like pharmaceuticals and textiles, where synthetic processes are vital for innovation and production.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 08, 2023
The use of artificial extends into conceptual and abstract realms, such as artificial intelligence, where the term denotes something that mimics the natural occurrence of human intelligence. Synthetic does not typically venture into these abstract realms; it remains closely tied to the physical creation of materials that are substitutes for naturally occurring substances.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 08, 2023
Artificial and synthetic both describe human ingenuity and the ability to create and innovate beyond what is found in nature. However, artificial has a broader scope, applicable to a wide range of man-made creations, while synthetic is more narrowly defined, focusing on the material and chemical domain where human synthesis creates new substances.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 08, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Scope

Broad, applies to anything man-made.
Narrow, specifically refers to materials made through chemical synthesis.
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Nov 08, 2023

Context

Can be used in abstract concepts (e.g., artificial intelligence).
Mainly used for tangible items (e.g., synthetic fibers).
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Nov 08, 2023

Connotation

Can be negative, suggesting inferiority to natural counterparts.
Often neutral or technical, without inherent negative implications.
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Relation to Nature

Implies imitation or replacement of natural elements.
Indicates the recreation of natural products at a molecular or chemical level.
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Nov 08, 2023

Usage Variability

Used across various fields and industries.
Primarily used in scientific, textile, and industrial contexts.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 08, 2023
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Artificial and Synthetic Definitions

Artificial

Imitation of something natural.
The vase was filled with artificial flowers.
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Nov 08, 2023

Synthetic

Pertaining to compounds made through chemical reaction by human design.
She wore a dress of synthetic silk.
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Nov 08, 2023

Artificial

Not arising from natural growth or characterized by vital processes.
They used artificial flavors in the cake.
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Nov 08, 2023

Synthetic

Fabricated by synthesis rather than extracted from natural sources.
The medication is made from synthetic compounds.
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Nov 08, 2023

Artificial

Created by humans to replicate a natural process or function.
The company is developing artificial intelligence.
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Nov 08, 2023
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Synthetic

A substance that is not natural but made to mimic a natural product.
They replaced the natural hormone with a synthetic version.
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Nov 08, 2023

Artificial

Made or produced by human beings rather than occurring naturally.
Artificial turf is used in many stadiums.
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Nov 08, 2023

Synthetic

Relating to, involving, or of the nature of synthesis.
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Oct 19, 2023

Artificial

Made by humans, especially in imitation of something natural
An artificial sweetener that replaces sugar.
Artificial flowers.
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Oct 19, 2023

Synthetic

(Chemistry) Produced by synthesis, especially not of natural origin.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Artificial

Not arising from natural or necessary causes; contrived or arbitrary
"Hausa [in Niger] ... are separated from their brethren in Nigeria by a porous and artificial border that the colonial powers left behind" (Jeffrey Tayler).
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Oct 19, 2023

Synthetic

Prepared or made artificially
Synthetic leather.
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Oct 19, 2023

Artificial

Affected or insincere
An artificial smile.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Synthetic

Not natural or genuine; artificial or contrived
“counterfeit rhetoric that flourishes when passions are synthetic” (George F. Will).
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Artificial

Man-made; made by humans; of artifice.
The flowers were artificial, and he thought them rather tacky.
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Oct 19, 2023

Synthetic

(Linguistics) Relating to or being a language, such as Latin or Russian, that uses inflectional affixes to express syntactic relationships.
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Oct 19, 2023

Artificial

; fake, forced, or feigned.
Her manner was somewhat artificial.
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Oct 19, 2023

Synthetic

Logic & Philosophy Relating to or being a proposition that attributes to a subject a predicate not inherent in the subject, not following necessarily from logically true statements.
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Oct 19, 2023

Artificial

Not natural or normal: imposed arbitrarily or without regard to the specifics or normal circumstances of a person, a situation, etc.
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Oct 19, 2023

Synthetic

Of or relating to a financial instrument or investment that consists entirely of derivatives, especially swap contracts.
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Oct 19, 2023

Artificial

(bridge) Conveying some meaning other than the actual contents of one's hand.
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Oct 19, 2023

Synthetic

A synthetic chemical compound or material.
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Oct 19, 2023

Artificial

Made or contrived by art; produced or modified by human skill and labor, in opposition to natural; as, artificial heat or light, gems, salts, minerals, fountains, flowers.
Artificial strifeLives in these touches, livelier than life.
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Oct 19, 2023

Synthetic

Of, or relating to synthesis.
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Oct 19, 2023

Artificial

Feigned; fictitious; assumed; affected; not genuine.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Synthetic

(chemistry) Produced by synthesis instead of being isolated from a natural source (but may be identical to a product so obtained).
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Oct 19, 2023

Artificial

Artful; cunning; crafty.
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Oct 19, 2023

Synthetic

(medicine) Produced by synthesis, thought to have the same effect as its natural counterpart, but chemically different from it.
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Oct 19, 2023

Artificial

Cultivated; not indigenous; not of spontaneous growth; as, artificial grasses.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Synthetic

Artificial, not genuine.
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Oct 19, 2023

Artificial

Contrived by art rather than nature;
Artificial flowers
Artificial flavoring
An artificial diamond
Artificial fibers
Artificial sweeteners
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Synthetic

(grammar) Pertaining to the joining of bound morphemes in a word (compare analytic).
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Oct 19, 2023

Artificial

Artificially formal;
That artificial humility that her husband hated
Contrived coyness
A stilted letter of acknowledgment
When people try to correct their speech they develop a stilted pronunciation
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Synthetic

(linguistics) Of a language, having a grammar principally dependent on the use of bound morphemes to indicate syntactic relationships (compare analytic).
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Artificial

Not arising from natural growth or characterized by vital processes
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Oct 19, 2023

Synthetic

A synthetic compound.
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Oct 19, 2023

Artificial

Lacking authenticity or genuineness.
The actor's smile seemed artificial.
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Nov 08, 2023

Synthetic

Of or pertaining to synthesis; consisting in synthesis or composition; as, the synthetic method of reasoning, as opposed to analytical.
Philosophers hasten too much from the analytic to the synthetic method; that is, they draw general conclusions from too small a number of particular observations and experiments.
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Oct 19, 2023

Synthetic

Artificial. Cf. Synthesis, 2.
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Oct 19, 2023

Synthetic

Comprising within itself structural or other characters which are usually found only in two or more diverse groups; - said of species, genera, and higher groups. See the Note under Comprehensive, 3.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Synthetic

A compound made artificially by chemical reactions
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Oct 19, 2023

Synthetic

Not of natural origin; prepared or made artificially;
Man-made fibers
Synthetic leather
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Oct 19, 2023

Synthetic

Involving or of the nature of synthesis (combining separate elements to form a coherent whole) as opposed to analysis;
Limnology is essentially a synthetic science composed of elements...that extend well beyond the limits of biology
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Oct 19, 2023

Synthetic

Systematic combining of root and modifying elements into single words
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Oct 19, 2023

Synthetic

Of a proposition whose truth value is determined by observation or facts;
`all men are arrogant' is a synthetic proposition
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Oct 19, 2023

Synthetic

Artificial as if portrayed in a film;
A novel with flat celluloid characters
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Oct 19, 2023

Synthetic

Not genuine or natural;
Counterfeit rhetoric that flourishes when passions are synthetic
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Synthetic

Relating to or made using chemical synthesis, especially to imitate a natural product.
The jacket was made from synthetic leather.
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Nov 08, 2023

Synthetic

Material or substance created artificially to replicate natural properties.
Synthetic motor oils often perform better under extreme conditions.
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Nov 08, 2023

Repeatedly Asked Queries

Can food be synthetic?

Yes, if it contains chemically synthesized ingredients.
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Nov 08, 2023

What does artificial mean?

Artificial refers to something made by humans, not occurring naturally.
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Nov 08, 2023

What does synthetic mean?

Synthetic specifically describes materials made by chemical synthesis to imitate natural products.
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Nov 08, 2023

Is synthetic rubber natural?

No, it's chemically produced to replicate natural rubber.
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Nov 08, 2023

Are all artificial things synthetic?

No, not all artificial things involve chemical synthesis.
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Nov 08, 2023

Can artificial be used to describe intelligence?

Yes, as in artificial intelligence, which mimics human cognition.
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Nov 08, 2023

Can "artificial" and "synthetic" be used interchangeably?

Yes, often they can, especially when describing materials not made from natural sources.
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Nov 08, 2023

What is an example of an "artificial" substance?

Artificial sweeteners like aspartame are made through chemical processes.
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Nov 08, 2023

Is "artificial" used in contexts other than materials?

Yes, it can also describe actions or processes that are forced or contrived, like artificial laughter.
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Nov 08, 2023

Are "artificial" foods considered unhealthy?

Not necessarily, but some artificial additives and preservatives are controversial in terms of health effects.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 08, 2023

What does "artificial" mean?

Artificial refers to something made by human skill or effort rather than occurring naturally.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 08, 2023

What does "synthetic" specifically refer to?

Synthetic typically refers to substances made through chemical synthesis, especially to imitate a natural product.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 08, 2023

Can something be "natural" and "synthetic"?

Generally no, as synthetic implies human-made, whereas natural implies occurring in nature without human intervention.
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Nov 08, 2023

Is "synthetic" ever used in a positive context?

Yes, especially in contexts like medicine or technology where synthetic products can have beneficial uses.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 08, 2023

Are "artificial" flavors made from chemicals?

Yes, they are created from chemical compounds that mimic natural flavors.
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Nov 08, 2023

Why are synthetic materials important?

They can have properties superior to natural materials, like greater durability or less cost.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 08, 2023

Can "artificial" refer to intelligence?

Yes, "artificial intelligence" refers to intelligence demonstrated by machines.
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Nov 08, 2023

What's a common "synthetic" material?

Polyester is a common synthetic fabric used in clothing.
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Nov 08, 2023

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About Author
Shumaila Saeed
Written by
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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