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What do you call someone whom you make a gift for? It seems “recipient” is the most common word used, but I'm in a situation where the person in question has specifically not received the gift yet (and after all, it could fail to reach them, or the giver could change their mind at the last moment), so isn't “recipient” misleading in that case?

I'm looking for a word like “addressee” for a gift (which isn't mailed so there's no address involved).

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    Intended recipient? – Dan Bron Nov 12 '14 at 13:00
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    It seems the giver is having trouble making his/her mind up as to who the gift is actually for, maybe he/she has commitment issues or maybe he/she is an Indian giver. One can only hope the recipient is Tim Whatley and then the circle of gift giving would be complete, just in time for the holidays. – kip Nov 12 '14 at 13:16
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    The likely recipient would also work. – TRomano Nov 12 '14 at 14:14
  • @DanBron Yes, that's the exact meaning of what I'm looking for, if there was a one-word way to say it it would be perfect. – Socce Nov 12 '14 at 14:56
  • You being charged by the word? – Oldcat Nov 12 '14 at 23:38
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I think recipient is perfectly fine as-is, even if they haven't actually received it.

"I'm going to put a bow on this gift so that the recipient will enjoy it even more when they see it under the Christmas tree"

is perfectly clear.

"The recipients stood in line eagerly awaiting their Purple Hearts from the President."

Also is perfectly clear. It is not literally correct, but for sure the figure of speech would be perfectly plain to any reader.

If you look in Wiktionary one of the definitions is:

The portion of an alembic or other still in which the distilled liquid is collected.

This is a portion of a chemistry apparatus (see diagram in the above link.) It would be called the recipient even if you have just taken it out of the box unused.

So depending on your context I think "recipient" is just fine, and if you need to be sure just add an adjective such as "intended".

ADDITION: I had a look at the three words suggested here, beneficiary, giftee and recipient. The order of frequency according to Google's NGram puts recipient several orders of magnitude ahead, though the comparison isn't entirely fair, since it is hard to measure the exact usage of the word "recipient" with the precise meaning intended by the OP.

However, comparing giftee and beneficiary, the usages are about equal, which is surely interesting given that "beneficiary" is certainly a well known and used word with many alternative meanings, whereas "giftee" is not in many dictionaries and is very tightly focused on the specific meaning that the OP wants.

So I'd still choose recipient, however, in casual conversation, giftee would seem a reasonable choice too.

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    Or you could say the "would-be" recipient. If the gift was actually a wooden bee then everything would be perfect. – Oldcat Nov 12 '14 at 23:40
  • @FraserOrr So it wouldn't be so weird if, seeing you gift-packing, I asked you “Who's the recipient?”? (of course a more proper way would be “Who is it for?”, but I need to know if the word comes across as clear and correct in this context.) – Socce Nov 13 '14 at 8:54
  • No, @Socce, that would not seem at all weird, it would be a perfectly reasonable question, in fact it would be a pretty common way to ask. You are also correct that: "who is it for?" would be the more common of the two though. – Fraser Orr Nov 13 '14 at 16:17
  • Thanks @FraserOrr. On a side note, your Google NGram links, and the results you draw from them, are flawed by a typo in "beneficiary": the correct spelling shows it actually shares a similar-ish usage with "recipient", far ahead of "giftee" which remains pretty rare (this is probably what you could have expected from them). – Socce Nov 19 '14 at 21:32
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If it were a substantial gift I would call them a beneficiary.

Although the word has a legal meaning as a person who derives advantage from something, especially a trust, will, or life insurance policy (Oxford Dictionary - on line) it can also apply to anyone who receives anything gratis.

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    In this case a potential beneficiary since the giver appears to be undecided about making the gift or not!!:)) – user66974 Nov 12 '14 at 13:30
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I have read the expression "giftee" on the internet but it made me wince. I am not sure if it is proper grammar and in any case is on the "cute" side.

  • Giftee: not a very common term but good to know: collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/giftee. books.google.com/ngrams/… – user66974 Nov 12 '14 at 13:48
  • I agree with @Josh61. I checked a few dictionaries and they don't have it, though it is in the crowd sourced wiktionary. So I'd say it is a word in transition, and I'd also say that very few native speakers would actually understand what the word means. – Fraser Orr Nov 13 '14 at 16:23

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