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I'm looking for examples of single words which mean: having the appearance of being synthetic/man-made, as opposed to natural.

Example sentence: After crossing the stream, they stumbled upon a _____ rock formation."

The meaning should be that they found a rock formation which may or may not have been man-made, but appeared to be (presumably because of it's apparently careful arrangement).

  • How about faux leather? Oh, no: it's intended to look real. How about tacky? – Weather Vane Mar 7 at 19:37
  • faux leather is definitely synthetic. Tacky is a special property that some synthetic things have. Here is an example sentence: "After crossing the stream, they stumbled upon a _____ rock formation." So they found a rock formation which may or may not have been man-made, but appeared to be (presumably because of it's apparently careful arrangement). – wes Mar 7 at 19:48
  • The title says "appearing synthetic" so I ruled out "faux leather" and "creme egg". Sadly tacky can be a property of real things. – Weather Vane Mar 7 at 19:49
  • Can you please edit the new information into the question? – Weather Vane Mar 7 at 19:51
  • What about artificial? – Lucian Sava Mar 7 at 20:10
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I'd suggest unnatural. Merriam-Webster defines it:

not being in accordance with nature or consistent with a normal course of events

  • This fits what I asked for. (Of course I'd still be interested in more examples). – wes Mar 7 at 21:05
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I recommend artificial

Made or produced by human beings rather than occurring naturally, especially as a copy of something natural.

The 'natural copy' part seems a perfect fit re your rock formation example.

From Oxford Dictionaries

Alternatively, there's bogus

Not genuine or true (used in a disapproving manner when deception has been attempted)

Same source.

  • The problem I have with these is that they only apply if the thing is actually man-made or synthetic. I want an adjective that captures that an object "appears" man-made, regardless of whether or not it actually is. – wes Mar 7 at 20:43
  • @wes In my opinion, this is too narrow a query - a word for something 'appearing' man-made, but not necessarily. If needs be couldn't you write exactly that - Appearing man-made.... This exact example is seen following a Google Books search - in particular, On Agression by Konrad Lorenz: "At intervals are loggerhead sponges, manbroad and tablehigh, almost appearing man-made..." – Lordology Mar 7 at 21:02
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Not sure you'll be able to find a single word, but you could say "uncannily-arranged" or "curiously structured".

It's more of a stretch, but you might also find "pareidolic" appropriate, pareidolia being the phenomenon where we perceive a familiar structure in a more random input.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareidolia

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