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In this question on Server Fault, the asker says "And it works fine, but that's a ponctual solution..." and corrects himself in a comment, using "punctual".

I've only ever used "punctual" to mean "on time." Can it also mean "ad hoc"?

From dict punctual:

From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48 [gcide]:

Punctual \Punc"tu*al\, a. [F. ponctuel (cf. Sp. puntual, It. puntuale), from L. punctum point. See {Point}.] 1. Consisting in a point; limited to a point; unextended. [R.] "This punctual spot." --Milton. [1913 Webster]

         The theory of the punctual existence of the soul. --
                                                Krauth.
   [1913 Webster]
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4 Answers 4

The other meanings are rarely used.

A search for punctual in the COCA brings 217 results. Out of the first 30 results, only in 2 or 3 the meaning is not "on time". The other meanings are (from the Webster's 1913 Dictionary) :

  • Consisting in a point; limited to a point; unextended.
  • Observant of nice points; punctilious; precise.

The author of the post in Server Fault probably meant that the solution that he had used only applied to a particular problem (a particular script) and that he was looking for a more generic solution.

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I was wondering whether the person asking the question meant 'perfunctory' or perhaps 'pedantic', but those don't quite work in the context. I think the choice of adjective is dubious by someone who self-confessedly is not a native English speaker. Finding the right word to replace 'punctual' is tricky. The trick described as a 'punctual solution' is an effective hack; it is also slightly messy because it requires changes.

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In common usage, punctual means not late while ad hoc means when necessary (only for a particular purpose) or not planned in advanced. These mean rather different things.

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2  
"Ad hoc" doesn't mean "when necessary". –  ShreevatsaR Dec 12 '10 at 3:10
    
Ad hoc means for a particular purpose only, not when necessary. The meaning of a Latin phrase is not necessary kept, in English. –  kiamlaluno Feb 18 '11 at 8:10
    
In all IT departments I have worked in since 1986, to run a job ad hoc was to run it outside schedule, when we felt like it. I have actually a few hours ago requested an ad hoc run of a computer program that normally runs every Wednesday evening but which I needed an operator to start today –  mplungjan Jul 12 '11 at 16:34
    
@kiamlaluno: It also means not planned before it happens, which is the same as when necessary (or more clearly as and when necessary), at least in this context. –  psmears Jul 13 '11 at 14:25

Punctual means "spot on" or "on point." It usually refers to being exactly "on time," but could have other meanings like being exactly in the right PLACE.

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