[ adjective uh-dept; noun ad-ept, uh-dept ]
See synonyms for: adeptadeptlyadeptness on

  1. very skilled; proficient; expert: an adept juggler.

  1. a skilled or proficient person; expert.

Origin of adept

First recorded in 1655–65; from Medieval Latin adeptus “one who has attained (the secret of transmuting metals),” noun use of Latin past participle of adipiscī “to attain to” (ad- “toward” + -ep- combining form of ap- in aptus + -tus past participle suffix); see ad-, apt

word story For adept

The Latin noun adepti “those who have attained knowledge of the esoteric secrets of alchemy,” seems first to have appeared in the works of the Swiss physician and alchemist Paracelsus, and later, in the works of the Flemish chemist and physician Jan Baptista van Helmont. Twice in Ulysses, James Joyce uses the noun adept in reference to Madame Blavatsky and her Theosophical Society.
The noun adept originally meant “one who has gained knowledge of the of alchemy, the occult, hermetic philosophy, and magic,” which is Joyce’s use of the word. As both noun and adjective, it developed the more general sense “(a person) highly skilled or proficient in a subject.” The adjective adept appears about a quarter of a century before the noun, but they have the same etymology, coming from Latin adeptus, the perfect participle of adipiscī “to overtake, catch up with, obtain, achieve.”
Adipiscī is a compound formation of the preposition and prefix ad, ad-, here in the sense of “reaching,” and the verb apiscī “to seize hold of, grasp.” Apiscī is a frequentative verb formed from the rare verb apere “to fasten, attach, bind,” whose perfect participle aptus “tied, bound, connected, fitted with, ready for” is very common in Latin and is the source of English apt.

Other words from adept

  • a·dept·ly, adverb
  • a·dept·ness, noun
  • non·a·dept, adjective
  • non·a·dept·ly, adverb
  • un·a·dept, adjective
  • un·a·dept·ly, adverb

Words that may be confused with adept Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use adept in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for adept


  1. very proficient in something requiring skill or manual dexterity

  2. skilful; expert

  1. a person who is skilled or proficient in something

Origin of adept

C17: from Medieval Latin adeptus, from Latin adipiscī to attain, from ad- to + apiscī to attain

Derived forms of adept

  • adeptly, adverb
  • adeptness, noun

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012