From French synthétique, from Ancient Greek συνθετικός (sunthetikós); Equivalent to synthesis +‎ -ic (suffix formation of -tic).


  • enPR: sĭnthĕt'ĭk, IPA(key): /sɪnˈθɛtɪk/
  • Audio (US):(file)



synthetic (comparative more synthetic, superlative most synthetic)

  1. Of, or relating to synthesis.
  2. (chemistry) Produced by synthesis instead of being isolated from a natural source (but may be identical to a product so obtained).
    • 2013 August 10, “A new prescription”, in The Economist, volume 408, number 8848:
      As the world's drug habit shows, governments are failing in their quest to monitor every London window-box and Andean hillside for banned plants. But even that Sisyphean task looks easy next to the fight against synthetic drugs. No sooner has a drug been blacklisted than chemists adjust their recipe and start churning out a subtly different one.
  3. (medicine) Produced by synthesis, thought to have the same effect as its natural counterpart, but chemically different from it.
  4. Artificial, not genuine.
  5. (grammar) Pertaining to the joining of bound morphemes in a word (compare analytic).
  6. (linguistics) Of a language, having a grammar principally dependent on the use of bound morphemes to indicate syntactic relationships (compare analytic).

Usage notes

  • (Bio-)chemicals can be produced synthetically, but be chemically indistinguishable from to their counterparts found in nature. However, especially in medical contexts, synthetic is most often meant to denote molecules (active ingredients in drugs) that are chemically different from the natural substance on which they are based.
    Folic acid is the synthetic form of vitamin B9 (L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate).

Derived terms



The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.



synthetic (plural synthetics)

  1. A synthetic compound.
    • 2007 January 14, Elsa Brenner, “Art House to Get a Campus”, in New York Times[1]:
      Only plastics and synthetics that cannot be recycled will end up in landfills, he said.