Adjoint methods are a key ingredient of gradient-based full-waveform inversion schemes. While being conceptually elegant, they face the challenge of massive memory requirements caused by the opposite time directions of forward and adjoint simulations and the necessity to access both wavefields simultaneously for the computation of the sensitivity kernel. To overcome this bottleneck, we have developed lossy compression techniques that significantly reduce the memory requirements with only a small computational overhead. Our approach is tailored to adjoint methods and uses the fact that the computation of a sufficiently accurate sensitivity kernel does not require the fully resolved forward wavefield. The collection of methods comprises reinterpolation with a coarse temporal grid as well as adaptively chosen polynomial degree and floating-point precision to represent spatial snapshots of the forward wavefield on hierarchical grids. Furthermore, the first arrivals of adjoint waves are used to identify “shadow zones” that do not contribute to the sensitivity kernel. Numerical experiments show the high potential of this approach achieving an effective compression factor of three orders of magnitude with only a minor reduction in the rate of convergence. Moreover, it is computationally cheap and straightforward to integrate in finite-element wave propagation codes with possible extensions to finite-difference methods.