Printable Version
Pronunciation: ahr-tê-zên, -sên Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A craftsman, someone who practices a skilled trade or handicraft, such as a blacksmith, a potter, or a glassblower. 2. Something made in small quantities by a small, local business, like 'artisan beer'.

Notes: This word has become very popular recently with the rise of the habit of calling small, local breweries 'artisan' breweries, producing artisan beer. However, the word has long been used to label 'artisan cheese', 'artisan breads', and others. As a noun, it seems to be losing out to craftsman. It comes with an adjective: artisanal and two abstract nouns: artisanry and artisanship.

In Play: When used as a noun this word refers to craftsmen: "The sad fact is that no matter how skilled they are, artisans cannot compete with modern manufacture." As an attribute, it refers to something made by traditional standards in small quantities: "I tell my friends that the best beer in Germany is called "ein Bier", for if you order it, you will get a fresh, local artisan beer."

Word History: This word was borrowed from French, which, in turn, borrowed it from Italian artigiano [ahrtijahno] "artisan; hand-made" from the presumed Vulgar Latin word artitianus. This word would have been related to Classical Latin artitus "skilled in the arts", the past participle of artire "to teach art", based on ars, artis "art". Latin inherited ars from Proto-Indo-European ar- "fit together", found in arm, army, and armada, derived from Latin armata "armed", the feminine past participle of armare "to arm". We see it again in harmony, borrowed from the Greek harmonia "articulation, agreement, harmony", based on harmos "joint". (Thank now George Kovac, an artisan contributor of great Good Words like today's.)

Dr. Goodword,

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