Ad Hoc Polymorphism

What Does Ad Hoc Polymorphism Mean?

Ad hoc polymorphism refers to polymorphic functions that can be applied to different argument types known by the same name in a programming language. Ad hoc polymorphism is also known as function overloading or operator overloading because a polymorphic function can represent a number of unique and potentially heterogeneous implementations depending on the type of argument it is applied to.


Techopedia Explains Ad Hoc Polymorphism

Ad hoc polymorphism defines operators that can be used for different argument types. It follows a dispatch mechanism in which the control moving from one named function is dispatched to several other functions without specifying the function being called. This function overloading permits multiple functions taking different argument types to be known by the same name as the compiler and interpreter calls the right function. For example in the following code:

 int a, b;
float x, y;
printf(“%d %f”, a+b, x+y);

The symbol ‘+’ is used in two different ways. In the expression a+b, it stands for the function that adds two integers. In the expression x+y, it stands for the function that adds two floats. Thus, ad hoc polymorphism refers to the use of a single function name to indicate two or more unique functions. The compiler decides which function to call depending on the type of arguments.

Ad hoc polymorphism is supported by almost all programming languages for built-in operations such as ‘+’, ‘-‘, ‘*’, etc.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.