AskDefine | Define artist

Dictionary Definition

artist n : a person whose creative work shows sensitivity and imagination [syn: creative person]

User Contributed Dictionary



From etyl fr artiste, from etyl it artista, from late etyl la artista, from ars.


  • a UK /ˈɑːtɪst/, /"A:tIst/
  • a US /ˈɑɹtɪst/, /"Ar\tIst/


  1. A person who creates art.
  2. A person who creates art as an occupation.
  3. A person who is skilled at some activity


person who creates art
person who creates art as an occupation
skilled person


  1. Artistic.
    • 1603, John Florio, translating Michel de Montaigne, Essays, vol. 1 ch. 24:
      Nature, to shew that nothing is savage in whatsoever she produceth, causeth oftentimes, even in rudest and most unarted nations, productions of spirits to arise, that confront and wrestle with the most artist productions.



  1. artist (all senses)

Extensive Definition

The definition of an artist is wide-ranging and covers a broad spectrum of activities to do with creating art, practicing the arts and/or demonstrating an art. The normal meaning in both everyday speech and academic discourse is a practitioner in the visual arts only. The term is often used in the entertainment business, especially in a business context, for musicians and other performers (less often for actors). "Artiste" (the French for artist) is a variant used in English only in this context. Use of the term to describe writers, for example, is certainly valid, but less common, and mostly restricted to contexts like criticism.

Dictionary definitions

Wiktionary defines the noun 'artist' (Singular: artist; Plural: artists) as follows:
  1. A person who creates art.
  2. A person who creates art as an occupation.
  3. A person who is skilled at some activity
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the older broad meanings of the term "artist,"
  • A learned person or Master of Arts (now rather obsolete)
  • One who pursues a practical science, traditionally medicine, astrology, alchemy, chemistry (also obsolete)
  • A follower of a pursuit in which skill comes by study or practice - the opposite of a theorist
  • A follower of a manual art, such as a mechanic - partly obsolete
  • One who makes their craft a fine art
  • One who cultivates one of the fine arts - traditionally the arts presided over by the muses - now the dominant usage
A definition of Artist from creative person (a person whose creative work shows sensitivity and imagination).

History of the term

In Greek the word "techně" is often mistranslated into "art." In actuality, "techně" implies mastery of a craft (any craft.) The Latin-derived form of the word is "tecnicus", from which the English words technique, technology, technical are derived.
In Greek culture each of the nine Muses oversaw a different field of human creation:
No muse was identified with the visual arts of painting and sculpture. In ancient Greece sculptors and painters were held in low regard, somewhere between freemen and slaves, their work regarded as mere manual labour. The word art is derived from the Latin "ars", which, although literally defined means, "skill method" or "technique", holds a connotation of beauty. During the Middle Ages the word artist already existed in some countries such as Italy, but the meaning was something resembling craftsman, while the word artesan was still unknown. An artist was someone able to do a work better than others, so the skilled excellency was underlined, rather than the activity field. In this period some "artisanal" products (such as textiles) were much more precious and expensive than paintings or sculptures. The first division into major and minor arts dates back to Leon Battista Alberti's works (De re aedificatoria, De statua, De pictura), focusing the importance of intellectual skills of the artist rather than the manual skills (even if in other forms of art there was a project behind). With the Academies in Europe (second half of XVI century) the gap between fine and applied arts was definitely set. Many contemporary definitions of "artist" and "art" are highly contingent on culture, resisting aesthetic prescription, in much the same way that the features constituting beauty and the beautiful, cannot be standardized easily without corruption into kitsch.

The present day concept of an 'artist'

Artist is a descriptive term applied to a person who engages in an activity deemed to be an art. An artist also may be defined unofficially, as, "a person who expresses themselves through a medium". The word also is used in a qualitative sense of, a person creative in, innovative in, or adept at, an artistic practice.
Most often, the term describes those who create within a context of 'high culture', activities such as drawing, painting, sculpture, acting, dancing, writing, filmmaking, photography, and music—people who use imagination, talent, or skill to create works that may be judged to have an aesthetic value. Art historians and critics will define as artists, those who produce art within a recognized or recognizable discipline.
The term also is used to denote highly skilled people in non-"arts" activities, as well—crafts, law, medicine, alchemy, mechanics, mathematics, defense (martial arts), and architecture, for example. The designation is applied to high skill in illegal activities, such as "scam artist" (a person very adept at deceiving others, often profiting (semi-illegally) from other people) or "con artist" (a person very adept at committing fraud).
Often, discussions on the subject focus on the differences among "artist" and "technician", "entertainer" and "artisan," "fine art" and "applied art," or what constitutes art and what does not. The French word artiste (which in French, simply means "artist") has been imported into the English language where it means a performer (frequently in Music Hall or Vaudeville). The English word 'artist' has thus, a narrower range of meanings than the word 'artiste' in French.


  • P.Galloni, Il sacro artefice. Mitologie degli artigiani medievali, Laterza, Bari, 1998
  • C. T. Onions (1991). The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. Clarendon Press Oxford. ISBN 0-19-861126-9
portal Arts
sisterlinks Arts
artist in Catalan: Artista
artist in Czech: Umělec
artist in Welsh: Arlunydd
artist in Danish: Kunstner
artist in German: Künstler
artist in Spanish: Artista
artist in Esperanto: Artisto
artist in French: Artiste
artist in Korean: 미술가
artist in Ido: Artisto
artist in Indonesian: Seniman
artist in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Artista
artist in Inuktitut: ᑕᑯᒥᓇᖅᓕᐅᖅᑎᑦ/takuminaqliuqtut
artist in Italian: Artista
artist in Hebrew: אמן (אמנות)
artist in Kurdish: Hunermend
artist in Lithuanian: Artistas
artist in Malay (macrolanguage): Artis
artist in Dutch: Artiest
artist in Japanese: 美術家
artist in Norwegian: Kunstner
artist in Norwegian Nynorsk: Kunstnar
artist in Uzbek: Musavvir
artist in Polish: Artysta
artist in Russian: Деятель искусств
artist in Albanian: Artisti
artist in Simple English: Artist
artist in Slovak: Artista
artist in Finnish: Taiteilija
artist in Swedish: Konstnär
artist in Thai: ศิลปิน
artist in Tajik: Санъаткор
artist in Ukrainian: Художник
artist in Yoruba: Onísọ̀nà
artist in Samogitian: Artists
artist in Chinese: 艺术家

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Admirable Crichton, ace, adept, ancestors, apprentice, architect, artificer, artisan, artiste, attache, author, authority, begetter, beginner, belly dancer, builder, burlesque queen, chorine, chorus boy, chorus girl, conceiver, concert artist, conjurer, connaisseur, connoisseur, constructor, consultant, copyist, cordon bleu, coryphee, crack shot, crackerjack, craftsman, craftswoman, creator, dancer, dancing girl, dauber, daubster, dead shot, designer, deviser, diplomat, diplomatist, discoverer, ecdysiast, effector, elder statesman, engenderer, engineer, entertainer, executant, executor, executrix, exotic dancer, experienced hand, expert, expert consultant, father, female impersonator, first-rater, founder, geisha, geisha girl, generator, genius, graduate, grower, guisard, guiser, handicraftsman, handy man, hoofer, impersonator, inaugurator, industrialist, initiator, instigator, institutor, interpreter, introducer, inventor, journeyman, maestro, magician, maker, manufacturer, marksman, master, master carpenter, master craftsman, mechanic, minstrel, minstrelsy, mother, mountebank, mummer, music maker, musician, nautch girl, no slouch, old master, organizer, originator, past master, peeler, performer, planner, player, politician, precursor, prentice, prestidigitator, prime mover, pro, prodigy, producer, professional, professor, proficient, public entertainer, raiser, realizer, savant, shaper, shark, sharp, show girl, singer, sire, smith, soloist, statesman, stripper, stripteaser, stripteuse, technical adviser, technician, topnotcher, tunester, vaudevillian, vaudevillist, virtuosa, virtuoso, whiz, wizard, wonder, wright
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