"This is a copy; the original painting is in the Louvre museum". Why can't we use the word "genuine" (not a copy or a fake), instead of "original?"


The word original works better when there is only one work in question:

This is a copy; the original Mona Lisa hangs in the Louvre.

The word genuine could work if we are talking about something that is not a forgery or a reproduction:

This is a genuine Manet painting.

means that Manet painted it; it's not some facsimile of a Manet work.

In some contexts, either word could be used:

His whole life, he saved money, hoping one day to buy a genuine Picasso.

His whole life, he saved money, hoping one day to buy an original Picasso.

Both of those refer to a work created by Picasso's hand, although the first carries a slight connotation of "as opposed to a replica."

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    +1 It definitely comes down to singular vs. plural. The original would refer the one and only painting where a genuine would refer to one of many paintings that are all legitimate works by the artist. – Dryden Long Apr 2 '14 at 20:15

'Genuine' in this case (the world of fine art) would imply that the copy is a fake, a forgery, intended to deceive or defraud a buyer.

Instead, it was probably a copy by hand or photographic reproduction intended to illustrate the work for audiences who could not travel to the Louvre. So we refer to the "original" work of art.

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    I would say "original" should also be used when comparing to prints (even those made by the artist of the original). For example, I have a picture hanging in my room which is print #2 of 5, but it is not the original. – Brian S Apr 2 '14 at 21:47
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    Also, if someone took a paintbrush and used it to apply paint to a canvas, the result is a genuine painting, even if it isn't the Mona Lisa. – Martha Apr 2 '14 at 23:23
  • @Martha If you painted a copy of the Mona Lisa, you would not go around calling it "genuine," even though it genuinely is a painting :) – relaxing Apr 3 '14 at 14:17

In this case, "original" and "copy" are part of the jargon used. The original is that which the copy is made from.

Compare with using a copying machine. If you copy a document, the document being duplicated is referred to as "the original" and the duplicate is "the copy". Even if "the original" may itself be a copy of the real, genuine document!

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