ad hoc

Printable Version
Pronunciation: æd-hahk Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Formed temporarily for a specific, non-continuing purpose, as 'an ad hoc committee on ice removal'. 2. Impromptu, not planned, improvised, as 'an ad hoc attempt to remove the ice with a screwdriver'.

Notes: Today we have what seems to be two Good Words, but they are pronounced as one. Remember, there isn't even a hyphen between these two Latin words (see Word History). That it is considered a single word in English is demonstrated by the regular derivations that come from it. The noun, ad hocism "acting in ad hoc ways", is widely used, but if you want to be funny about it, try ad hocery, used by a wag in The Economist as late as 1961.

In Play: Today's word seldom wanders far from talk about committees in the US, but other uses are out there: "Passing through a small town on our way to Canada, we ran a stop sign and had to make an ad hoc detour to the local courthouse." There are even uses around the house: "Rick O'Shea embarrassed his wife at the party when he put a lampshade on his head and performed an ad hoc dance on the coffee table."

Word History: Today's phrase-word comprises the Latin preposition ad "to" + hoc "this". Ad shares the same origin as English at, which still can express the sense of "to", as in 'to lunge at'. Hoc is the neuter accusative of hic "this". It comes from an old root that is also behind English here and hither, since ancient [k] becomes [h] in Germanic languages like English. In Russian, however, it doesn't, so the same root accounts for the initial [k] in kto "who" and kuda "where to".

Dr. Goodword,

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