Saturday, March 11, 2006

Adaptive and Adaptable

An interesting pair of words: I recently had to look at what the difference is between them in the course of editing a large project on networking hardware and software.

The English word "adaptive" had been translated with the Italian "adattabile". It looked OK, and it made sense, but I was not sure that the meaning was completely correct, so I started to look it up: looking at various dictionary definitions of the two words, both in English and in Italian (where I had to also see whether there was a difference between "adattivo" and "adattativo".

As usual, a big help was Google, when I searched for "difference between adptive and adaptable".

Turns out that, at least when one is talking of hardware and software, the difference is between a system that one can adapt or change ("adaptable"), and a system that is able to adapt or change itself, depending on the pattern of use it goes through ("adaptive"): thus "Software which supports richer reuse must be highly flexible and easily adaptable. Ideally, it should be adaptive, in the sense that it can adjust to certain context changes without the programmer intervention."

1 comment:

  1. It's a very subtle distinction, and I suspect many languages won't have this kind of separation. I was curious about this post and looked this up in Portuguese and Spanish. Although in my head I couldn't think of two different words (and I suppose probably I've translated this wrongly sometime, because I never stopped to think about it), I was surprised to see that I easily found them on common dictionaries:

    Adaptable > Adaptable (es) & Adaptável (pt)
    Adaptive > Adaptativo (es & pt)


Thank you for your comment!

Unfortunately, comment spam has grown to the point that all comments need to be moderated. All legitimate comments will be published as soon as possible.