What is the difference between invoke and evoke?

Main Difference Invoke vs Evoke

Although evoke and invoke sound and look similar, there is a subtle difference between invoke and evoke. Invoke means to call for support or aid whereas evoke means to summon or call forth. This is the main difference between invoke and evoke. This difference will be further explored by looking at the meaning and the usage of these two words.

Where does the word invoke come from?

The first records of invoke in English come from the 1480s. It comes from the Latin verb invocāre, in which vocāre means “to call.” In invoke, the prefix in- means, yep, “in,” so to invoke is “to call someone or something in.” What do you do when you need help? You call in reinforcements. Or you call on someone to help you. This is how invoke is used in the context of prayer.

You probably recognize the root -voke in other common words, like provoke and revoke. The prefix pro- in provoke means “forward,” so to provoke someone is to call them forth, as if to challenge them. The prefix re- in revoke means “back,” so to revoke something is to call it back.

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What Does Invoke Mean?

Invoke basically means to call upon something, especially aid or assistance. This verb is typically used when referring to the aid of a higher power such as a deity. The Oxford dictionary defines the verb invoke as “call on (a deity or spirit) in prayer, as a witness, or for inspiration” and American Heritage dictionary defines it as “to call on (a higher power) for assistance, support, or inspiration”. The following example sentences will help you to understand this meaning more clearly.

The old priest invoked the Holy Spirit for aid.

Stretching out his hands, the shaman invoked the Goddess of War.

The priests held a religious ceremony to invoke the deity.

Invoke can also mean to cite or appeal to something in support or justification.

He invoked the name of Henry II to prove his point.

The prisoner invoked his right to an attorney.

Figure 1: Example Sentence of Invoke – &#822

Figure 1: Example Sentence of Invoke – ” The old man invoked the guardian spirits “.

How to use invoke in a sentence?

Use the meaning of invoke for the following actions or circumstances: 

  • ‘To call on a higher power or deity for guidance, blessings, or support.’
  • ‘To summon or conjure by prayer or incantation.’ 
  • ‘To cite an authority or legitimize through an authoritative source.’ 
  • ‘To solicit the aid of power or authority.’ 
  • ‘To implement or put something into effect.’ 

Example sentences:

  • “As the U.K. grapples with Pandemic, some British leaders invoke the spirit of WWII.” –– NPR
  • “Can Guiliani invoke attorney-client privilege to avoid congressional testimony?” –– The Washington Post
  • “Facing eviction? Here’s how to invoke the CDC’s moratorium.” –– Mississippi Today
  • “Kitzhaber invokes conflagration act as wildfire threatens homes.” –– The Oregonian 

4 Ways to Use ‘Invoke’

In modern English, “invoke” has different connotations that allow you to use the term in a number of ways.

  1. To petition or appeal for help: To request or call upon help is one of the earliest uses of “invoke.” In times of trouble, individuals would invoke the help of someone through a formal request. Today, you can still use “invoke” to petition or appeal for help in a court of law. Example sentence: “After reviewing the ancient law in search of a solution, the kingdom decided to invoke the help of its allies.”
  2. To call upon rights: You can also use “invoke” to enforce your rights and privileges as a citizen. One of the most common uses of “invoke” in a court of law is when a defendant invokes their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. Example sentence: “Since the defendant’s lawyer was not present, she invoked her right to remain silent.”
  3. To cite a higher authority: When you cite or call upon a person of authority, you can use “invoke.” Once again, the word is often used in court as lawyers invoke, or summon, experts to testify. However, this meaning of “invoke” also works outside of a legal context. Example sentence: “A reporter invoked quotes from both scientists and farmers for an article on agriculture.”
  4. To call upon through incantation: In a religious context, “invoke” can mean to communicate with higher powers during a prayer or mantra. Example sentence: “The farmers invoked the god of rain to end the drought.”

Remembering Evoke vs. Invoke

One way to help you remember when to use evoke is to think of the word memory. Both words have an e, and evoke usually is about a memory.

On the other hand, the word cite and aid both contain an i, just like the word invoke. Invoke usually is about citing a law or calling for aid.

3 Ways to Use Evoke

Understanding the meaning of evoke and properly using it can enhance your writing.

  1. To call upon a memory: Details, such as a smell, sound, image, touch, or sight, can trigger a memory. You can use the term “evoke” to bring back and describe those memories. Example sentence: “Returning to the old boathouse evoked memories of sailing with her grandfather, inspiring her to write a new story for her blog.”
  2. To call upon a sensation: If your writing style is more abstract, consider evoking your sensory experiences rather than simply stating them. For poetry especially, you can evoke a certain feeling by describing your physical or mental reaction to a situation. Example sentence: “She brushed aside everything she knew about grammar and focused on evoking her unbridled determination.”
  3. To embody: “Evoke” can also mean embodying a style or spirit. Musicians may think of their muses to evoke a certain sound in the same way a chef may try to evoke the cooking style of an admired predecessor. Example sentence: “As the young artist sat down to paint, he tried to evoke the spirit of Van Gogh to create a landscape reminiscent of ‘Starry Night.’”

What is the difference between Invoke and Evoke?

Invoke means to call upon something, especially aid or assistance.  Evoke means to recall something to the conscious mind.
Usage
Invoke is often used in reference to a higher power or authority.  Evoke is used with regard to memory or emotions.
Directness
The verb invoke is more direct and active than evoke.  Evoke is not as direct or active as invoke.
Intention
Invoke refers to a deliberate action. Evoke refers to a spontaneous action.

How to remember the difference

Actually remembering the difference when you need it is the struggle, but there are some tricks that might work for you. As Grammarly says:

The difference between the two could be summarized like this: Invoke is active and direct, and it can have a material effect; Evoke is passive and indirect, and it usually has an emotional or intellectual effect.

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My takeaway here is that if you can remember that Evoke is often related to Emotions, you should be good to go in most cases.

Merriam-Webster also points out that lengthening the words can help clear up the difference when you’re extra stuck:

There is little confusion with longer forms of each word, which may help you in differentiating between them. Examples of these include evocative, which means “evoking or tending to evoke an especially emotional response,” and invocation, which is frequently used in the sense of “a summoning up or calling upon for authority or justification.”

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Difference Between Invoke and Evoke

Basic Meaning

Invoke refers to calling upon something.

Evoke means to call forth or bring to conscious mind.

Definition

Invoke means either to call forth for help or support or to appeal to or cite as authority.

Evoke means to bring or recall a feeling, memory, or image to the conscious mind.

Intention

Invoke implies a direct and an intentional action.

Evoke implies an indirect and unintentional action.

Active vs Passive

Invoke is more active and direct than evoke.

Evoke is less active and direct than invoke.

Object

Invoke is used with reference to more material and practical things.

Evoke is used with reference to intangible things like memories, feelings, emotions, etc.

Noun

Invocation is the noun of invoke.

Evocation is the noun of evoke.Image Courtesy:

Image Courtesy:

“Schamane während einer Kamlanie-Zeremonie am Feuer in Kysyl” by Dr. Andreas Hugentobler – Own work.  (CC BY 2.0 de) via Commons 

“Austrian Postcard 1901” by Unknown – scanned from Austrian postcard, dated 1901. (Public Domain) via Commons

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