I have had this question on my mind for a while and cannot seem to figure it out. Despite the relentless googling I have taken part in for the last 30 minutes, none of the answers I have found seem acceptable ('adaptability' is probably the closest, but it still does not feel "fulfilling"). I feel like there is a specific and dedicated word that would apply to the definition below.

What is the skill (or talent) called that refers to one's ability to learn a specific skill (such as a negotiation skill), group of skills (such as cooking), or knowledge (such as course knowledge from a school), and then be able to utilize this skill in their intended and taught manner (and same level of effectiveness), but in different environments (and situations), yet still the same overall context?

For example, let's say I learned the skill of programming. At home (where I learned it from a course), I am able to program perfectly. I am comfortable with the same software I learned it on, the same keyboard, monitors, everything is set in exactly the same manner I learned it.
However, once I attempt to program in a different environment (such as an office; on a different keyboard, with different software) or situation (but still programming in the same language I learned - the "overall context" I was referring to) I am not able to "adapt" this skill.

What would be the word for someone who is able to adapt in the situation I gave above?

It is the word "adapt" that does not seem fulfilling to me. Am I just being picky? Is 'adapt' the correct word?

  • Are you talking about “applied knowledge”? Apr 19, 2023 at 3:04
  • Do you want an adjective describing the skill, an adjective or noun for the person, an abstract noun for the ability to adapt your skills, or some other form of speech?
    – Stuart F
    May 27, 2023 at 11:45

3 Answers 3


This skill is called adaptability:

The field of human adaptability is a subdiscipline within the broader field of biological anthropology. Human adaptability focuses on the flexibility with which humans, both as individuals and as populations, cope with environmental challenges, through both biological and behavioral/cultural means.



I'd say that it's adaptability or versatility.

From Oxford Languages, versatility:

ability to adapt or be adapted to many different functions or activities. "a writer of remarkable versatility"


One who learns a skill in one context and is able to use the skill in another, is certainly adapting to the other context. I might think that the better word would be the ability to transfer, which is to say, bring across. They were able to transfer the skills gained in one place to another.
This happens frequently when one goes beyond the classroom, even the online classroom, to recognize opportunities elsewhere.
An article generously provided by M. Ashworth in the comments helps explain.

  • 1
    The answer I'd have suggested, Elliot. But can you select an appropriate definition / example sentence from the many online dictionaries etc? I know the psychoanalysts have grabbed the word, but they don't have the sole rights. This Yale article may help. The shorter 'transfer' seems to be preferred here. Apr 18, 2023 at 9:26
  • That’s not really going to work, considering the usage of transference in the field of psychoanalysis. Apr 19, 2023 at 0:46
  • poorvucenter.yale.edu/… - This is my answer. Thank You!
    – Konrad
    Apr 23, 2023 at 5:08

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