[ uh-dop-shuhn ]
/ əˈdɒp ʃən /
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the act or process of establishing a legal relationship between a child and a parent other than the child’s biological parent, thereby entrusting the designated adult with responsibility for raising the child: Have you considered growing your family through adoption?
the act or process of acquiring a pet, especially a stray or abandoned animal from an animal rescue organization: The shelter sees a rush of dog adoptions every June, when school lets out for summer.
the act of accepting, embracing, or starting to use something, as an idea, behavior, characteristic, or principle: The adoption of a new amendment was delayed by partisan bickering.Her friends and family were surprised by her adoption of European mannerisms and expressions after only one year abroad.
the state of being adopted.
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Origin of adoption

First recorded in 1300–50; Middle English adopcioun, from Latin adoptiōn-, stem of adoptiō; see ad-, option


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does adoption mean?

Adoption is the process of adopting another parent’s child—taking them into one’s custody, typically in a formal, legal way in order to permanently act as their parent or guardian.

This most commonly involves an adult couple or a single adult adopting and raising a child who is no longer in the custody of either of their birth parents (biological parents), such as in cases where they have died or are otherwise unable to care for the child. This sense of adoption can also be used in reference to adopting an animal as a pet, such as from an animal shelter. The word is especially used this way when the animal had a previous caretaker.

Adopt and adoption have many other more general meanings. Most generally, adopt means to choose or take as one’s own. It can also mean to accept something or vote to approve it. In all cases, adoption is the act or process of adopting, or the state of having adopted.

The adoption of a tradition or religion involves making it one’s own. The adoption of a plan involves approving it and acting according to its steps. Similarly, the adoption of a law involves the formal vote to approve it and the steps taken to follow and enforce it.

Example: We’ve found an agency that will help us through the process of adoption.

Where does adoption come from?

The first records of the word adoption come from the 1300s. Adoption is a noun form of the verb adopt, which comes from the Latin verb adoptāre, meaning “to choose for oneself,” from optāre, “to choose.”

Adoption of children is often pursued by people who are unable or who choose not to have biological children, but it can also involve families with their own children adopting other children into the family. A child can also be adopted by a relative, such as an aunt, uncle, or grandparent. The adjective adoptive can mean “involving adoption” or “related by adoption,” as in my adoptive family. A person who has been adopted can be referred to as an adoptee. More commonly, such a person may identify as adopted, as in I’m adopted, but I’ve met my birth mother and keep in touch with her.

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What are some other forms related to adoption?

  • nonadoption (noun)
  • preadoption (noun)
  • proadoption (adjective)
  • adopt (verb)

What are some synonyms for adoption?

What are some words that share a root or word element with adoption

What are some words that often get used in discussing adoption?

How is adoption used in real life?

Adoption is commonly used in the context of adopting children as well as in its general senses.


Try using adoption!

Is adoption used correctly in the following sentence?

The adoption of this law is an important moment in this nation’s history.

How to use adoption in a sentence