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[uh-duhlt, ad-uhlt] /əˈdʌlt, ˈæd ʌlt/
having attained full size and strength; grown up; mature:
an adult person, animal, or plant.
of, pertaining to, or befitting adults.
intended for adults; not suitable for children:
adult entertainment.
a person who is fully grown or developed or of age.
a full-grown animal or plant.
a person who has attained the age of maturity as specified by law.
1525-35; 1925-30 for def 3; < Latin adultus grown (past participle of adolēre to make grow), equivalent to ad- ad- + ul- (identical with base al- in aliment, ol- in prolific) + -tus past participle suffix
Related forms
adulthood, noun
adultlike, adjective
adultly, adverb
adultness, noun
nonadult, adjective, noun
quasi-adult, adjective
subadult, adjective, noun
subadultness, noun
unadult, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples for adults
  • The notable success of the period was made, however, by one whose work for adults was only mediocre.
  • He wrote, and wrote well, for adults as well as for children.
  • While the adults mingle, let the younger set glue the pieces together.
  • Instead, cover vegetable plants with floating row covers to prevent adults from laying eggs on them.
  • The adults feed on leaves and leave semi-circular notches on the margins.
  • Brains are expensive-it takes a lot of energy to build brains during fetal and childhood development and maintain them in adults.
  • Meanwhile, increasingly scarce adults were often caught in fishing gear.
  • Children and adults alike experience regional educational programs in the sciences and humanities.
  • But every ounce of breeding plumes represented six dead adults, and each slain pair left behind three to five starving nestlings.
  • Recreation was limited, so adults and kids alike shot marbles.
British Dictionary definitions for adults


/ˈædʌlt; əˈdʌlt/
having reached maturity; fully developed
of or intended for mature people adult education
regarded as suitable only for adults, because of being pornographic adult films and magazines
a person who has attained maturity; a grownup
a mature fully grown animal or plant
(law) a person who has attained the age of legal majority (18 years for most purposes) Compare infant
Derived Forms
adulthood, noun
Word Origin
C16: from Latin adultus, from adolēscere to grow up, from alēscere to grow, from alēre to feed, nourish
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
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Word Origin and History for adults
1530s (but not common until mid-17c.), from L. adultus "grown up," pp. of adolescere "grow up, mature" (see adolescent). As a euphemism for "pornographic," it dates to 1958 and does no honor to the word. The noun meaning "adult person" is from 1650s.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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adults in Medicine

adult a·dult (ə-dŭlt', ād'ŭlt)

  1. One who has attained maturity or legal age.

  2. A fully grown, mature organism.

Fully developed and mature.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Slang definitions & phrases for adults



Euphemistically meaning unsuitable for children: adult entertainment (1950s+)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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