My colleagues and I started a conversation about skiing. I told them about my last year trip to a mountain but unfortunately there wasn't any snow at all. People there managed to make some artificial snow (as I called it) for tourists to enjoy. But for the rest of our conversations, my colleagues, who are english native speakers (I am not), used the word "man-made" to describe the snow.

Did I incorrectly use the word "artificial" in this situation ?

What is the difference between "artificial" and "man-made" ?

Many thanks

  • 4
    Machine snow is not artificial: Although it's manufactured, it's snow and great skiing. Hollywood uses potato flakes as falling snow: It doesn't melt, but as snow it's artificial. Rayon is manufactured by restructuring cotton (and now bamboo): It's manufactured, but not synthetic or artificial. – Yosef Baskin Jul 6 '17 at 3:31
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    Something made by robots or intelligent aliens would obviously not be "man-made" but it still would be "artificial". I'm not posting this as an answer because I feel like it's tangential to what you're actually trying to learn. – herisson Jul 6 '17 at 3:41
  • @Yosef Baskin Manufactured snow is artificial. ODO gives: << artificial adjective 1 Made or produced by human beings rather than occurring naturally, especially as a copy of something natural >>. Wikipedia points out the ambiguity: << This article is about making snow artificially from water. For artificial snow made from hydrated artificial polymer, see Superabsorbent polymer. >> 'Man-made snow' is also ambiguous; words are often used metonymically, as with 'fake diamonds'. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 6 '17 at 8:36
  • I think that normal Google searches might give you an answer. – BlackSwan Jul 6 '17 at 9:50
  • This is just one more example of the duality of English vocabulary. Artificial is etymologically Romance for made by art, art being an important differentia for our species (see Sophocles Antigone 332ff.), where man-made is Germanic in origin and instead names the species itself, though perhaps in a regrettably sexist manner. As used, I don't think there is any reliable distinction in meaning between the two. – Brian Donovan Jul 6 '17 at 15:09

You used it correctly. Do not worry. In fact, if anything, your version is more succinct and accurate. They were using a simple compound word form of "man" and "made". Personally I would prefer artificial, which is the word you chose. But either one is correct. They are essentially synonyms.

  • Who in the world would downvote my answer here? Come on man. Am I missing something about the message board rules? Or does this nonsense just happen often? – Kace36 Jul 6 '17 at 4:17
  • Though I have possibly downvoted other answers you have given, I wouldn't consider this the correct action here. I agree that 'artificial snow' is not limited to the non-dihydrogen oxide stuff. But to quote @Sven Yargs, 'Your answer seems to be heavily weighted toward personal opinion as opposed to objective analysis—but this site especially prizes answers that have an identifiable basis in verifiable fact rather than just opinion. Please consider strengthening your answer by citing some independent authority that draws the same general conclusion that you do'. I've already baggsed ODO. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 6 '17 at 8:43
  • Yes, yes, I keep hearing about the voting of information. Sigh. I'll keep it mind. Sometimes I'm just going off my own knowledge. Also, I have to say, I see many answers that don't have full citation. And as internet lookups are still not a verifiable fact checking source I don't see why people cannot do their homework. Just my thoughts on that - not at you personally. No offense whatsoever. However with regard to the artificial vs man-made thing it's just a bit silly. The whole thing is just playing semantic games. They mean the same thing in everyday language. Plain and simple. – Kace36 Jul 6 '17 at 9:10
  • 'Sometimes I'm just going off my own knowledge.' You should see the slatings some writers of pretty famous books supposedly on English grammar have got here. Would you claim to be better at this stuff than Strunk and White? – Edwin Ashworth Jul 6 '17 at 10:33
  • No, I would not, nor did I make such an implication. I just meant that I'm trying to provide help with my knowledge base when and if I can. You seem to have some agenda against me. Not just b/c of this comment but the others too. Good lord. It's disconcerting. If I am wrong then I apologize. If I did something to offend then I apologize. I have taken the time to accept the helpful suggestions given about citations when providing answers. All I'm trying to do is be active in the community and provide help. I do find the above arguments about those 2 words absolutely ridiculous. Semantic games. – Kace36 Jul 7 '17 at 23:32

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