[ uh-dop-tiv ]
/ əˈdɒp tɪv /
Save This Word!

of or involving adoption.
acquired or related by adoption: an adoptive father or son.
tending to adopt.
Smoothly step over to these common grammar mistakes that trip many people up. Good luck!
Question 1 of 7
Fill in the blank: I can’t figure out _____ gave me this gift.

Origin of adoptive

1400–50; <Latin adoptīvus;see adopt, -ive; replacing late Middle English adoptife<Middle French adoptif

usage note for adoptive

Although adoptive in the sense “acquired or related by adoption” can refer to either parent or child in such a relationship, adoptive is customarily applied to the parent ( her adoptive mother ) and adopted to the child ( their adopted son ).


a·dop·tive·ly, adverbun·a·dop·tive, adjectiveun·a·dop·tive·ly, adverb


1. adaptive, adoptive 2. adopted, adoptive
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does adoptive mean?

Adoptive means related by adoption—the process of taking another parent’s child into one’s custody, typically in a formal legal way, in order to permanently act as their parent or guardian. To do so is to adopt.

A person’s adoptive family is the one they were adopted into. The word can also be applied to specific family members related by adoption, as in adoptive father and adoptive daughter. However, adoptive is most commonly used for parents, while the adjective adopted is more commonly applied to a child who has been adopted, as in Their adopted daughter is the newest addition to the family. 

Adoption 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. More generally, adoptive can be used to describe things involving adoption.

The word adopt is also used in more general ways. It can mean to choose or take as one’s own (such as to adopt a new tradition) or to accept something or vote to approve it (such as to adopt a plan or law). Adoptive can also mean tending to adopt in these ways, but this sense is not very commonly used.

Example: I consider my adoptive family my real family, but I still want to have a relationship with my birth parents.

Where does adoptive come from?

The first records of the word adoptive come from the 1400s. Its base word, adopt, 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. A person who has been adopted can be referred to as an adoptee. Adoptees can refer to their family as their adoptive family, or just their family.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to adoptive?

What are some synonyms for adoptive?

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

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

How is adoptive used in real life?

Adoptive is most commonly used to describe families and parents.



Try using adoptive!

Is adoptive used correctly in the following sentence?

People ask me what I call my adoptive mother—I call her Mom.

How to use adoptive in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for adoptive

/ (əˈdɒptɪv) /

acquired or related by adoptionan adoptive father
of or relating to adoptionCompare adopted
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