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Is It Adapt, Adopt Or Adept?

Is it adapt or adopt? And then there is also adept! Many English words sound similar or are spelled similarly. Usually, these come as word pairs, but today we will discuss a trio of words with similar spelling. Luckily, each word has unique and distinct meanings, which should help you distinguish them from each other. 

One reason these words are difficult to tell apart is that the chosen middle vowel is the only spelling difference between them. 

Before we get into the in-depth definitions, there is one point of difference that may help you remember. “Adept” acts as an adjective, whereas “adopt” and “adapt” both act as verbs. Without further ado, let’s get into these words’ definitions! 

What Does “Adept” Mean? 

As mentioned, “adept” is an adjective that means “good at doing a specific task.” It is normally used as a complement or a descriptor that lets people know when someone is good at their job. For example: 

  • He is adept at teaching others. 
  • She was adept at playing the violin. 
  • They were adept at organizing. 

What Does “Adapt” Mean? 

The verb “adapt” usually means “to alter and change to meet a new purpose or experience.” In most settings, “adapt” is used to describe objects or people, but sometimes it can also be used to describe intransitive things. For instance: 

  • I am starting to adapt to my new workplace. 
  • My professor adapted their old slideshow to meet the requirements of our class. 
  • My favorite novel was just adapted into a movie! 

What Does “Adopt” Mean?

“Adopt” is a verb that means “to take in for your own.” It is commonly used to describe the process of legally taking on custody of pets or children. For example: 

  • Sarah is excited because she has just adopted a new puppy! 
  • Michael was adopted as a child. 
  • I am adopting a new philosophy in life. 


Let’s take a look at these words in sentences from various media excerpts.

At the very least Guardiola might hope to find a trio of central defenders mobile and assured enough to adapt to a demanding system.  – The Guardian

All her works deal with love and courtship, but she is much more adept at reaching a wide audience than other romantic novelists. – The Economist

However, I am sorry it did not adopt the commitment of the previous Commission to keep us informed of the progress of the negotiations, given the importance of the issues involved. – EU Parliament

Related: We have a whole section on similar words here.

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By Ryan Fisher

Ryan holds degrees from Pacific Lutheran University and specializes in proofreading, editing, and content writing with an emphasis on business communication.

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