A strange compound of Latin and English. Reasonably common in epistemology and the philosophy of science. (Academic philosophers are not uneasy at creating new words when the need arises.)


  1. Should it be italicized as a whole, as in ad hocness? Or not at all?

  2. When ascribing something a lack of ad hocness, should one say non-ad hocness? Hyphenated and italicized?


2 Answers 2


Whether it should be italicized or not is a matter of the style guide you follow.

While I can't find ad hocness in Merriam-Webster, it is in Oxford—and both list ad hoc.

In all of these cases, the dictionaries show them in roman. (I only used italics for emphasis.)

So, barring something I wouldn't expect from a style guide, I would say that it should remain in roman. (Normally, style guides say to follow your main dictionary.)

Both dictionaries also define ad hoc (and Oxford, ad hocness) in an open form.

For hyphenation involving an open-form term, you would not normally add a hyphen to the term itself. So how would you deal with your example?

One possibility is mentioned by The Chicago Manual of Style (17th ed.), 6.80:

The en dash can be used in place of a hyphen in a compound adjective when one of its elements consists of an open compound or when both elements consist of hyphenated compounds . . . Whereas a hyphen joins exactly two words, the en dash is intended to signal a link across more than two. Because this editorial nicety will almost certainly go unnoticed by the majority of readers, it should be used sparingly, when a more elegant solution is unavailable. As the first two examples illustrate, the distinction is most helpful with proper compounds, whose limits are made clear within the larger context by capitalization. The relationship in the third example depends to some small degree on an en dash that many readers will perceive as a hyphen connecting music and influenced. The relationships in the fourth example are less awkwardly conveyed with a comma.

      the post–World War II years
      Chuck Berry–style lyrics
      country music–influenced lyrics (or lyrics influenced by country music)
      a quasi-public–quasi-judicial body (or, better, a quasi-public, quasi-judicial body)

If following this guidance, you might use:

non–ad hocness

Careful readers might notice its distinction from the hyphenated form:

non-ad hocness

But if the en dash version doesn't work (or even the singly-hyphenated form), then the only option to avoid awkwardness is to rephrase it.

You would need to use something like what you originally wrote:

 . . . its lack of ad hocness . . .

  • I had hoped someone would have coined ad hockery by now, but alas, only ad hocness.
    – tchrist
    Jul 5, 2018 at 3:40
  • @tchrist Btw ad hocness is a kind of ad hoc term defined for a purpose in linguistics, whence also "non(-) ad hoc (-)ness". The latter is not a similar "term" but an antonym used to mean something that is not the former.
    – Kris
    Jul 6, 2018 at 6:19

Uskali Mäki, "Economics with Institutions"
in Gustafsson (Ed), "Rationality, Institutions and Economic Methodology," Routledge, 02-Sep-2003 p.22 (Google Books)

Lakatos says that 'good scientists' call the latter 'ad hoc' (Ibid.). Non-ad hocness in this sense is a guarantee of theoretical unity and continuity.

Note the style and hyphenation, Non-ad hocness.

Attardo in "Linguistics and Humor Theory," in Attardo (Ed), "The Routledge Handbook of Language and Humor," Routledge, 17-Feb-2017 On this page (Google Books)

Postal (1971) established a theory-building principle of non-ad-hocness that postulated that no transformation rule should be invented …

Note the style and hyphenation, non-ad-hocness.

Both published by Routledge; earlier one dated 2003, the latter, 2017.

Botha, "The Conduct of Linguistic Inquiry," Mouton De Gruyter, 01-Apr-1981 p.316 (Google Books)

A first example of such a standard is that of non-ad hocness in a language-specific sense.

which I think is as it should be but for the typesetting challenge it presents.

  • Lakatos (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imre_Lakatos) seems to have used the neologism in 1970, while there's a reference to "The traditional Popperian idea of ad hocness " (Mäki, p.21). I'd think Lokatos or Popper (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Popper) may or may not have actually used the prefixed and/or suffixed form of the borrowed term in their writings.
    – Kris
    Jul 6, 2018 at 6:24

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