Ad Hoc Definition And Meaning: What Does Ad Hoc Mean?

  • Ad hoc is a Latin phrase meaning "for this". It generally signifies a solution designed for a specific problem or task, non-generalizable, and not intended to be able to be adapted to other purposes (compare a priori. Common examples are organizations, committees, and commissions created at the national or international level for a specific task. In other fields the term may refer, for example, to a military unit created under special circumstances, a tailor-made suit, a handcrafted network protocol, or a purpose-specific equation. Ad hoc can also mean makeshift solutions, shifting contexts to create new meanings, inadequate planning, or improvised events.

Ad hoc Definition(s)


For the specific purpose, case, or situation at hand and for no other: a committee formed ad hoc to address the issue of salaries.


1. Formed for or concerned with one specific purpose: an ad hoc compensation committee.

2. Improvised and often impromptu: "On an ad hoc basis, Congress has . . . placed . . . ceilings on military aid to specific countries" (New York Times). hoc - often improvised or impromptu; "an ad hoc committee meeting"

unplanned - without apparent forethought or prompting or planning; "an unplanned economy"; "accepts an unplanned order"; "an unplanned pregnancy"; "unplanned remarks" hoc - for or concerned with one specific purpose; "a coordinated policy instead of ad hoc decisions"

specific - (sometimes followed by `to') applying to or characterized by or distinguishing something particular or special or unique; "rules with specific application"; "demands specific to the job"; "a specific and detailed account of the accident" hoc - for one specific case; "they were appointed ad hoc"

Ad hoc hypothesis

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 theories that rely on frequent, unsupported adjustments to sustain them. Ad hoc hypotheses are often characteristic of pseudoscientific subjects. Ad hoc hypotheses are not necessarily incorrect, however. An interesting example of an apparently supported ad hoc hypothesis was Albert Einstein's addition of the cosmological constant to general relativity in order to allow a static universe. Although he later referred to it as his "greatest blunder," it has been found to correspond quite well to the theories of dark energy.

Ad hoc querying

Ad hoc querying is a term in information science. Many application software systems have an underlying database which can be accessed by only a limited number of queries and reports. Typically these are available via some sort of menu, and will have been carefully designed, pre-programmed and optimized for performance by expert programmers.

By contrast, "ad hoc" reporting systems allow the users themselves to create specific, customized queries. Typically this would be via a user-friendly GUI-based system without the need for the in-depth knowledge of SQL, or database schema that a programmer would have.

Because such reporting has the potential to severely degrade the performance of a live system, it is usually provided over a data warehouse. Ad hoc querying/reporting is a business intelligence subtopic, along with OLAP, data warehousing, data mining and other tools.

Ad hoc military

In military, ad hoc units are created during unpredictable situations, when the cooperation between different units is needed for fast action. An example would be a military breakout.

Ad hoc networking

The phrase has been extended in computer technology to mean a network for a short-term network, such as one established with wireless technology for a short session ("I linked up through an ad hoc connection at the Starbucks")

Examples of Ad Hoc

This is something that you haven't planned for and as a result you come up with an ad hoc plan which is directed to identifying the problem and looking for a solution. So it's an impromptu committee that is directed at getting the problem fixed and is something that was not a part of the original plan.

If a legal problem occurs in an office and demands a solution, then an ad hoc committee will be responsible for finding an (ad hoc) lawyer, who will be approached for legal advice because he specializes in that field. What makes it ad hoc is the fact that the situation presented itself at the last minute and the legal advice cannot be carried over to any other situation.

Context of Ad Hoc Usage

The earlier example was used to explain the ad hoc concept to you in more clarity. The term ad hoc is used most frequently in the context of 'setting up an ad hoc committee' to provide solutions for a particular set of problems that have come up in a meeting or a work set up. For example - An ad hoc committee was set up to look into the Walt report and draw up the required changes.

Ad hoc is also used quite frequently in the contexts of information technology and in journalism as well.

Hopefully, you now have a satisfactory answer to what does ad hoc mean, the contexts it can be used in, and how to make use of it well enough.
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