I'm searching for the etymological origin of those words. There is this page on the internet : https://www.expath.de/how-to-say-artsy-and-artificial-in-german/.

But I can't find something about why are those two words so similar in the way they are written, even thought they totally don't mean the same thing. Is its origin a pun ? that someone wanted to do sarcasm about art and instead of saying künstlerisch, said künstlich ?

  • 3
    künstlerisch => artistic / künstlich => artificial HTH. Apr 9, 2018 at 17:50
  • well that's not my question actually... I want to understand why those words seems so similar Apr 9, 2018 at 17:53
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    I know. I only tried to give you a hint. Apr 9, 2018 at 17:54
  • okay thanks :) but I don't have any idea alone Apr 9, 2018 at 17:55
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    Künstlich and künstlerisch are similar for exactly the same reason why artificial and artistic are similar.
    – RHa
    Apr 9, 2018 at 18:16

1 Answer 1


Indeed, both Kunst, künstlich, künstlerisch share their etymology from Kunst that was already present in Old High German in the meaning of knowledge (Kenntnis) and skill (Können).

It was until in the 18th Century when künstlich was indeed used in the meaning of being artfully made or from a technical high level:

Der Apfel war aber so künstlich gemacht, daß der rote Backen allein vergiftet war.Schneewittchen

Only later there was a shift in meaning for something that was unnatural, and to an exaggerated extend man made. Then – like in English – the meaning of künstlich became artificial and most of the original meanings got lost.

This was not the fate of künstlerisch (artistic), an adjective that only came up much later in the 18th Century for something that was created by an artist. Similarly the adjective kunstvoll (artful) maintained its connection to art until today and it now replaces künstlich in its pristine meaning.

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