I think this is originally a term used in biology or evolution theory. I heard it in a youtube video but I cannot find it now.

Edit: This word does not have negative connotations. For instance, an animal may develop a different way to use an organ intended for something else. Or you can use a big book as a door stop.

  • This word does not have negative connotations. For instance, an animal may develop a different way to use an organ intended for something else. Or you can use a big book as a door stop.
    – Zeynel
    Jan 12, 2014 at 20:12
  • 2
    Why not repurposing?
    – bib
    Jan 12, 2014 at 21:23
  • I think repurposing works as well; in fact I was looking to repurpose exaptation to mean repurpose.
    – Zeynel
    Jan 12, 2014 at 21:39
  • Your question is not clear. If I presumed I had clarity of the question, I would answer it with malapropism - but I will not since I have scant idea if that is what you would be looking for, since it has nothing to do with biological Evolution. Jan 13, 2014 at 3:10
  • As a biologist, I'd be more inclined to refer to an original purpose rather than intended purpose - "intention" (and to a lesser extent, "purpose") sounds like intelligent design.
    – Golden Cuy
    Apr 3, 2015 at 5:55

7 Answers 7


Ok, I found the answer: exaptation.

  • 1
    Your title is dubious . Exaptation is a change in function of a trait during evolution ,( the purpose of it changes but there is no mention of
    – Argot
    Jan 12, 2014 at 20:17
  • Other use than intended purpose.
    – Argot
    Jan 12, 2014 at 20:22
  • 1
    Though I would like to know the answer of the title question and not the anticipated question.
    – Argot
    Jan 12, 2014 at 20:24
  • 2
    in a biological sense, i believe this is most certainly the correct word. for those looking for something WITH the negative connotations, "subvert" comes to mind
    – chrismarx
    Mar 18, 2015 at 17:41

Shoehorn perhaps?


Verb 1. shoehorn - fit for a specific purpose even when not well suited


Using "improvise" and "improvisation" in a sentence to illustrate the meaning:

We lacked the purpose-built equipment to do the task, so we had to improvise, using only the tools available.

Our improvisation of using a garden hoe to mix the cement worked well.


@Argot -what's the answer to the title?

ad hoc
Latin, meaning: for this -Wiki

ad hoc can also mean makeshift solutions, shifting contexts to create new meanings, inadequate planning, or improvised events.

ad hoc \ˈad-ˈhäk, -ˈhōk; ˈäd-ˈhōk\ adjective -MW

1,b : formed or used for specific or immediate problems or needs
2: fashioned from whatever is immediately available: improvised


Anomaly? maybe the world anomaly could be used to describe this practice or

anomalous-being out of the ordinary that was an anomalous year for the housing industry, so the number of starts is anything but typical Synonyms aberrant, aberrated, abnormal, exceptional, atypical, especial, exceeding, extraordinaire, extraordinary, freak, odd, peculiar, phenomenal, preternatural, rare, singular, uncommon, uncustomary, unique, unusual, unwonted


Palimpsest. A beautiful word and a magical thing. "Something such as a work of art that has many levels of meaning, types of style, etc. that build on each other," according to the Cambridge Dictionary.

  • The Shabaka Stone in the British Museum was once a monumental stela recording events 1000's of years ago but became a millstone for grinding grain and then a part of a wall. It carries all those complex histories in one simple stone 'wheel'. Feb 16, 2018 at 19:07

I think you are looking for this word improvise or improvisation

  • 2
    Not my downvote, could be the voter needs to be convinced. Could you provide a definition from an online dictionary, or make a sentence with your suggestion? (I think you're on the right track btw)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 8, 2014 at 5:11
  • I agree with Mari-Lou A that this might well be the best verb suggestion. It's a shame that the user who put it forward never attempted to develop the suggestion into a complete answer, with (for example) a suitable definition of the suggested term and a brief explanation of how it meets the questioner's conditions.
    – Sven Yargs
    Aug 27, 2015 at 5:23

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