Say you move to a country where everyone cooks with lots of hot peppers. At first the food scalds your tongue, but over time you adapt — you change in a way that allows you to deal with the new circumstances.

Adapt comes from the ancient word ap, which means “take” or “grasp.” Ap is even older than Latin — it comes from a lost language that was spoken by the common ancestors of modern-day Indians and Europeans and has since been reconstructed by linguists, who named it the Proto-Indo-European language, or PIE. So what does adapt have to do with grasp? If you adapt to, say, a new country, it’s as though you’re grabbing hold of its strange, slippery customs.

Definitions of adapt
  1. verb

    make fit for, or change to suit a new purpose

    Adapt our native cuisine to the available food resources of the new country”
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    make correspondent or conformable
    gear, pitch

    set the level or character of

    insert or adjust several objects or people
    anglicise, anglicize

    make English in appearance

    fit for a specific purpose even when not well suited
    orient, tailor

    adjust to a specific need or market
    domesticate, tame

    make fit for cultivation, domestic life, and service to humans
    cultivate, domesticate, naturalise, naturalize, tame

    adapt (a wild plant or unclaimed land) to the environment

    adapt in the name of Christianity
    naturalise, naturalize

    adopt to another place
    electrify, wire

    equip for use with electricity

    rewrite or arrange a piece of music for an instrument or medium other than that originally intended
    popularise, popularize

    make understandable to the general public
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    alter, change, vary

    become different in some particular way, without permanently losing one’s or its former characteristics or essence

  2. verb

    adapt or conform oneself to new or different conditions

    adjust, conform
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    readapt, readjust

    adjust anew

    adapt anew

    become similar to one’s environment
    focalise, focalize, focus

    become focussed or come into focus
    acclimate, acclimatise, acclimatize

    get used to a certain climate

    be equal or harmonize

    be obedient to

    cause to match, as of ideas or acts

    assimilate culturally
    abide by, comply, follow

    act in accordance with someone’s rules, commands, or wishes
    take orders

    receive and be expected to follow directions or commands
    heed, listen, mind

    pay close attention to; give heed to
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    undergo a change; become different in essence; losing one’s or its original nature

Word Family