Learn English – What do you call someone whom a gift is intended for


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).

Best Answer

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.