Adaptor vs. Adapter

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Gustavoang, May 17, 2006.

  1. Gustavoang Senior Member

    Venezuela / Castilian

    I'd like to know what's the difference between "adaptor" and "adapter".

  2. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    An "adaptor" is a device that connects two things that otherwise wouldn't work together. You plug your three-prong plug into one end of the adaptor, and you plug the two-prong end of the adaptor into the socket in the wall. In this way the device "adapts" the new appliance (with the grounded plug) into the old (ungrounded) electrical system, whose receptacle has only two slots.

    You want to put a Chevy engine into a Willys Jeep, but it doesn't bolt onto the bell housing-- they make adaptors to facilitate this, a sort of metal collar with holes on one end which fit the bolt pattern of the engine, and holes at the other that are "adapted" to the bell housing.

    An "adapter" is a person who is able to adapt, to change himself or his approach when the environment around him changes.
  3. MissJudi

    MissJudi New Member

    Minnesota, USA
    AE - USA (California)

    In my opinion the common use of these words are;

    Adaptor: a Person who adapt to a certain situation.

    Adapter: An inanimate object designed to adapt one thing to another.

    However, I have just learned (via Wikipedia) that there is really no actual difference.

    "An adapter or adaptor is a device used to match the physical or electrical characteristics of two different things so that a connection may be made between them."

    I hope that in some way this helps.

    Miss Judi
  4. Joelline

    Joelline Senior Member

    USA (W. Pennsylvania)
    American English
    Miss Judi,
    I would have agreed with your initial definitions. But, I just looked up both words in 3 different dictionaries (not believing the first 2!).

    Your Wiki definition is absolutely correct. For the device, one can use either adaptor or adapter.

    BUT, for the person, the human being who adapts a novel into a filmscript or a a musician who adapts a composition for particular voices or instruments or for another style of performance, the only acceptable spelling is adapter (which is completely counter-intuitive). I would have bet that, like sculptor and actor, the -or ending suggested a person. But, instead, it appears to follow the "painter" model! Who knew?
  5. MissJudi

    MissJudi New Member

    Minnesota, USA
    AE - USA (California)

    I guess that just goes to show - you never know for sure when using the English language!

    good luck to all of us! :D

    Miss Judi
  6. Gustavoang Senior Member

    Venezuela / Castilian

    Thank you all for your responses. Now I understand the difference.

    I got confused because of the Wikipedia's definition of Adapter Patter, since they also mention "adaptor" and both are used as synonyms, I think.

  7. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    In BE - take your pick.
    -er will cause no comment.
    -or may raise an eyebrow from time to time.
  8. Gustavoang Senior Member

    Venezuela / Castilian
    Hi, panjandrum!

    What do you mean by "In BE"? :confused:

    I thought "BE" was an acronym (similar to BTW, AFAIK...), but it isn't.

  9. Joelline

    Joelline Senior Member

    USA (W. Pennsylvania)
    American English
    BE = British English
    AE = American English
  10. Gustavoang Senior Member

    Venezuela / Castilian

    Thanks once again!
  11. Blue Spotted Frog New Member

    United States, English
    Hello WF. Came upon this thread while searching for the difference between adapter and adopter.

    Found a Bartleby link that said:

    Adaptor is an infrequent variant spelling of adapter. Neither spelling is attached exclusively to persons or to things.

    The only real difference is just the agentive endings of "er" and "or", of which, "American English has many such words, for which the suffixes seem almost randomly chosen." :rolleyes:
  12. acme_54

    acme_54 Senior Member

    Valencia, Spain
    English UK
    The correct meaning is actually the other way around. I think the "-er" form is more widely used in US English for both meanings, perhaps due to overgeneralization? In the UK anyway, we say "adaptor" for the apparatus and "adapter" for people.
  13. acme_54

    acme_54 Senior Member

    Valencia, Spain
    English UK
    Bartleby is no great authority and heavily USA-centric to boot. Claims that the other, earlier forms used are somehow "variants" of one (presumably) "correct" form are putting the cart before the horse.
  14. dharasty Senior Member

    American English
    An interesting input on the subject:

    http: //

    Basic conclusion: both are in common use for both senses.
  15. Highlander72 New Member

    I will add one more opinion to support the proposition that "adapter" is used for a person and "adaptor" for device. If we look at the antonym of adapter it may be consider to be "resister" (someone who opposes change). Quite clearly we use "resister" for person and not "resistor" (which is solely reserved for the electrical device.)
  16. cyberpedant

    cyberpedant Senior Member

    North Adams, MA
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    My digital OED shows no preference for either form of adapter, -or.

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