Artsy and artificial - how to use them in German

The German words “künstlich” and “künstlerisch” look and sound similar, and they both come from “Kunst” (f.), meaning “art”, but they describe quite different things:

– “künstlich” means “artificial” and is used to describe things that are unnatural or that imitate natural processes:

“Im Büro stehen nur künstliche Blumen.” – “There are only fake flowers in the office.”
“Ich habe dieses künstliche Licht satt!” – “I am sick of this artificial light!”

– “künstlerisch” means “artistic” and is used to describe anything befitting or relating to art or artists:

“Sie hat eine künstlerische Veranlagung.” – “She has an artistic temperament/disposition.”
“Er macht von der künstlerischen Freiheit gebrauch.” – “He’s making use of artistic license.”

Similar words are “kunstvoll” (in the sense of “artful”) and indeed “artistisch”.

Note: All adjectives listed here can of course also be used as adverbs (i.e. “künstlerisch” can also mean “artistically”: “Es ist künstlerisch gestaltet.” – “It is artistically arranged/designed.”)

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