Adopted vs. adoptive

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As an adjective, adopted usually describes the adoptee (i.e., the one who is passive in the adoption process). Adoptive usually describes the adopter. So an adopted child is raised by his or her adoptive parents.

Although this distinction is useful, it’s not always borne out in practice, and some writers use adoptive for the adoptee. This isn’t a serious problem as one long-established definition of adoptive is, simply, of or having to do with adoption. But the use of adopted in place of adoptive is illogical because adopted implies that there is an adopter and an adoptee. The adoptee is always adopted by the adopter, not vice-versa.


Does that mean she’s pregnant? Is Shelby’s adopted daughter ready for a sibling? [Los Angeles Times]

After I wrote about child trafficking and international adoption from China, an adoptive mother contacted me. [New York Times]

Meanwhile, the actress’s adopted son looked adorable in denim trousers. [Daily Mail]

Jobs was fired by his own company 10 years after launching Apple in his adoptive parents’ garage. [Toronto Star]

An adopted child had found his family, though as it turned out for an all-too brief period. [The Australian]

Adoptive parents pay thousands of dollars in fees and “donations” to orphanages and government officials. [BBC News]

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