Ad hoc

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Ad hoc is a Latin phrase meaning literally 'for this'. In English, it typically signifies a solution for a specific purpose, problem, or task rather than a generalized solution adaptable to collateral instances (compare with a priori).

Common examples are ad hoc committees and commissions created at the national or international level for a specific task, and the term is often used to describe arbitration (ad hoc arbitration). In other fields, the term could refer to a military unit created under special circumstances (see task force), a handcrafted network protocol (e.g., ad hoc network), a temporary banding together of geographically-linked franchise locations (of a given national brand) to issue advertising coupons, or a purpose-specific equation.

Ad hoc can also be an adjective describing the temporary, provisional, or improvised methods to deal with a particular problem, the tendency of which has given rise to the noun adhocism.[1]


Style guides disagree on whether Latin phrases like ad hoc should be italicized. The trend is not to use italics.[2] For example, The Chicago Manual of Style recommends that familiar Latin phrases that are listed in the Webster's Dictionary, including "ad hoc", not be italicized.[3][4]


In science and philosophy, ad hoc means the addition of extraneous hypotheses to a theory to save it from being falsified. Ad hoc hypotheses compensate for anomalies not anticipated by the theory in its unmodified form.

Scientists are often skeptical of scientific theories that rely on frequent, unsupported adjustments to sustain them. Ad hoc hypotheses are often characteristic of pseudo-scientific subjects such as homeopathy.[5]

In the military[edit]

The Ceremonial Guard parading in Ottawa. The CG is an ad hoc unit of the Canadian Forces.

In the military, ad hoc units are created during unpredictable situations, when the cooperation between different units is suddenly needed for fast action, or from remnants of previous units which have been overrun or otherwise whittled down.

In governance[edit]

In national and sub-national governance, ad hoc bodies may be established to deal with specific problems not easily accommodated by the current structure of governance or to address multi-faceted issues spanning several areas of governance. In the UK and other commonwealth countries, ad hoc Royal Commissions [6] may be set up to address specific questions as directed by parliament.


The term ad hoc networking typically refers to a system of network elements that combine to form a network requiring little or no planning.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, 2nd Edition
  2. ^ Yateendra Joshi, " Latin phrases in scientific writing: italics or not", editage Insights, January 14, 2014
  3. ^ "When to italicize foreign words and phrases". 23 February 2012. Archived from the original on 22 June 2018. Retrieved 6 January 2016.
  4. ^ "Italics". The Economist. Retrieved 6 January 2016.
  5. ^ Carroll, Robert T. (23 February 2012), "Ad hoc hypothesis", The Skeptic's Dictionary, John Wiley & Sons, retrieved 27 May 2013
  6. ^ "Royal commissions". BBC. 27 October 2008. Retrieved 4 May 2021.

Further reading[edit]

  • Rheingold, Howard. (2002), Smart Mobs: the Next Social Revolution, Perseus

External links[edit]

  • The dictionary definition of ad hoc at Wiktionary