To retrofit is to take a new item and make it work with something old.

What is the word to take an old item and make it work with something new?

For example, someone could retrofit a new character by modding an old game. Retrofitting an old character into a new game doesn't sound correct, since you're doing the exact opposite of retrofitting. What word am I looking for?

  • 3
    "Modernize" and "upgrade" are the two that come immediately to mind. Are those close? "Recondition" and "Renovate" may also be suitable in some circumstances.
    – emsoff
    Feb 7 '14 at 1:25
  • It's just a reuse. Read about 'new-life reuse where it is used for a different function' on WP. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reuse KitFox is on the spot with repurpose, wish that was suggested as the answer, not merely mentioned in the passing.
    – Kris
    Feb 7 '14 at 6:59
  • I think retrofit would apply with both. For example sentences like "standard 'dumb' bombs have been retrofitted with 'smart' guidance packages to improve their accuracy" perfectly describes taking something old and adding something new.
    – Misneac
    Nov 13 '15 at 14:07

I suspect that there may be no correct answer. I looked up this question, and it gave me pro- and antero- as antonyms. Profit. No. Anterofit. Doesn't even exist.

There may not be an antonym for this word. However, there's a myriad of other words that mean what you want, such as:

  • Update
  • Refit
  • Modernize
  • Renovate
  • Refit seems like a fine opposite to retrofit. Not sure why you say there's no antonym. Just because the usual opposite of retro- isn't productive here doesn't mean there's no antonym for the full word. Feb 7 '14 at 7:31

I would normally just use adapt.

Of course, that's a hypernym of retrofit, but there's a good reason why we have a specific term for using something new in an older context; the challenges are different, because we can't plan for how to design the old context to work with the new component because the old context is by definition not what we are designing. Conversely, if we are using an existing component in a newer context (and indeed, we will be doing so almost every time; we'll always have some elements that pre-exist) we have the ability to plan the wider context to match well, which while still posing challenges, is generally more easily done.

This would cover physical items (adapting an engine component to work in a new engine), digital items (adapting a general purpose software library to better serve a specific use) or intellectual property (adapting an existing character or location, whether fictional or based on reality, to serve a game or narrative).


Recycle is close in meaning to your context. It would be widely recognized as taking something used (old) for use in something new. It's not perfect, but it fits with the example you gave: I recycled some of the characters from the last game for the new game.

Reuse would also work but has less of a sense of modification or repurposing than recycle has.

And also, repurpose could be used, although I think this indicates that the thing is adapted for something other than its intended use. It would suit if you were using an old character as a statue, an image on a poster, or a coffee table, for instance.

  • +1 Isn't repurpose the word? Should it not have been the answer? :)
    – Kris
    Feb 7 '14 at 7:01
  • These words are all good if the old thing requires no modification; otherwise I'd prefer refit. Feb 7 '14 at 7:33

"Retrograde" can somewhat be the opposite of "retrofit".

Retrofitting is applying new technology/features to old. It is fitting retro in today's world. So we want a word that means applying old technology/features to new.

"Retrograde" is like "to upgrade something to retro" but this word is normally not used in this context unfortunately. http://www.thefreedictionary.com/retrograde

There is also retro-futurism, blend of retro styles with futuristic styles. Though, it can be both ways as "the future as seen from the past" and "the past as seen from the future". But there are two trends that describes each: retro-futurism proper and futuristic retro.

More details: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retro-futurism


A word often used in the area of electronic technology, such as in your game example is Kludge. This is most often used when the old item is not quite perfect for the job. It doesn't carry the negative connotation of words like Bodge.

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