Most PCs are typically equipped for connecting to a network. They can communicate with other PCs, printers or cable & DSL modems through their Network Interface Card (NIC). Ethernet adapter is a synonymous term and used interchangeably.
The NIC plugs into a slot on the motherboard or is built right into the board. Many PCs now include a network interface built into the motherboard. Cards are typically rated for their speed capability of 10, 100 or 1,000 Mbps (mega bitsper second. In the case of 1,000 Mbps, it is more correctly referred to as a Gigabit.