Ad hoc is a Latin phrase meaning literally ‘to this.’ But the expression commonly used as an idiom, which means “for this purpose” and “as needed.”
- something arranged, started, or done only when necessary but not planned earlier
- made or done suddenly for a particular purpose as necessary
- for the special purpose
- An ad hoc committee was formed to address health insurance problems.
- The City Council formed a new ad-hoc citizen’s committee to look at other borough needs.
- The teachers were given their positions back on an ad hoc basis till next month.
- The task was performed manually and in an ad hoc manner.
- The government has released an ad hoc announcement to prevent covid-19 after the outbreak.
- The communication is being done through ad hoc channels such as WhatsApp.
- The management established an ad hoc committee to examine issues related to workers.
Ad hoc was first used in Britain as early as 1545 in Latin texts rather than English. The English of that era was strongly influenced by Latin as used by the church and by educators.
English borrowed the Latin phrase ‘ad hocin’ the mid-1500s when the expression was quickly being adopted into legal and judicial writings.
Ad hoc spreads as a term in such contexts in the 1800s. A Louisiana Code of Practice for civil law from 1839, for example, lists the various situations where a person, such as a minor, may be assigned what is called a curator ad hoc, a “caretaker for this purpose.” An 1869 judicial report from the state of New York, as another instance, describes forming ad hoc committees by the courts to investigate specific matters.
The earliest published instance of ad hoc in an otherwise English milieu without nearby translation is from William Lawd’s 1639 account of his debate with “Mr Fisher the Jesuite.” A decade earlier, however, John Donne used ad hoc in the midst of a sermon otherwise largely free of Latin, in a way that seemed to go far toward treating it as a useful term to adopt into English.
Like ad hoc (“for this [specific purpose]”), quo ad hoc (“to this extent”) began showing up unexplained in predominantly English texts during the first half of the seventeenth century. Although quo ad hoc has not prospered in everyday English as ad hoc has, its occasional occurrence in English texts during the seventeenth century may have helped English readers become familiar with the the Latin words involved and, thus, may have played a role in smoothing the way for acceptance of ad hoc into mainstream English.