Ad hoc is literally Latin meaning “for this.” We use ad hoc in English to describe something temporary, something that was created for a specific purpose or is a one-off. For example, an ad hoc decorations committee could be created for the sole purpose of organizing the prom decorations, and an ad hoc theme song meeting could be called to address the one specific issue of what theme song should be chosen. After their duties are fulfilled, the ad hoc committees disband and the ad hoc meetings adjourn.
It’s my belief that [the CIA’s] assassinations have always been ad hoc efforts, organized usually at the behest of policymakers above the agency—and usually unsuccessful.
—Aldrich Ames, CIA officer who spied for other countries, in William Safire’s book The Right Word in the Right Place at the Right Time
Copyright © 2011 by Mignon Fogarty, Inc.
Mignon Fogarty, the creator of Grammar Girl and the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips Network, is also the author of the New York Times bestselling GRAMMAR GIRL'S QUICK AND DIRTY TIPS FOR BETTER WRITING and THE GRAMMAR DEVOTIONAL. Her straightforward, bite-sized tips on grammar have led to features in the New York Times, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and an appearance on Oprah. She lives in Reno, Nevada.