Difference Between Invoke and Evoke


How to Use Evoke

The verb "evoke" means to summon, call forth, or call to mind. It's often used in the context of bringing up a memory, sentiment, or nostalgia. Music or smells can put someone right back into a place he was decades earlier. A period movie or book, done right, can spark memories for people who lived through the era. All of these things evoke these memories and emotions in the person receiving the stimuli.

Or if someone evokes a particular feeling with her work, it means that the pieces are in the same style as another. For example, if someone's artwork is in the style of Cubism, it might evoke comparisons to Pablo Picasso. A pop-rock band's music might evoke the Beatles.


Using Invoke in a Sentence

When to use invoke: Invoke can also mean to call forth. However, rather than use invoke to mean to call forth a memory, people use it when they call or plead for help.

They can use this either when asking for help from individuals, groups, or deities. They can also use this when they mention a law and want to enforce it.

For example,

  • The people at the church prayed to invoke God’s presence within their lives. (asking for help from a god)
  • The commander invoked a rarely used law to try to force the country into a war. (mention a law that the person wants to enforce)
  • The small village invoked the aid of the neighboring town after being devastated by a tornado. (asking for help from a group)

There are no notable expressions or idioms with invoke, but the top collocations include invoke a/the name, invoke God, invoke a/the law, and invoke a/the privilege.

What is the Difference Between Invoke and Evoke?

In this post, I will compare these confusing English verbs. I will outline the definition of each word and use each in example sentences

Plus, I will show you a mnemonic device that will help you choose either evoke or invoke in your own writing.

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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 “.

Definition of Evoke – So What Is Evoke?

The definition of evoke is to bring about a thought, feeling, or emotion.

Already there is a significant difference between evoke and invoke in the above definition. The wider explanation of these words in the previous section should have helped you to spot it, but when a person is evoking something, they are basically remembering something.

They are allowing something, someone, or somewhere to help them recall their memories, feelings, emotions, and thoughts in relation to the initial trigger point. Interestingly, a trigger point can be a location, an object, a person, or even a smell.

When something is being evoked, you are involuntarily being triggered in some way, whether it is emotionally, physically, or even intellectually. Something else is making you do or feel something that you were not doing or feeling moments ago.

Invoking, on balance, is actually a completely voluntary process.

Invoking is also entirely internal, whereas evoking is externally led. The clue, of course, lies in the words themselves. When we are comparing evokes vs invokes, the first letter of each word determines the nature of the rest of the word. The letter “i” denotes an inward focus, and the letter “e” denotes an external focus.

The word evoke originates in 17th century Latin, specifically in the word “evocare,” meaning “from or out of.” To help you to separate evoke vs invoke further, we will now provide you with some practical sentence examples that make use of the word evoke.

“The city evoked memories of her childhood, with all of its sights and sounds.” “The design team hoped that the new vehicle’s retro styling would evoke nostalgic feelings in prospective buyers.”

We have intentionally used two different contexts here to help you fully grasp the concept of evoking vs invoking. The first is a very straightforward application of the word because it revolves around a location triggering memories within a person based on the activities and visual cues in the area. The second is a little more complicated. What ties them both together is that something external is being used to manifest something else.

This should give you a much better idea about the scope of use for evoke because when you follow the logic behind the examples, suddenly it becomes clear that anytime something leads to the creation of a thought, feeling, or emotion, the source trigger point can be described as evoking some kind of response.

In the next section, we are going to provide you with a quick reference table to help you determine the invoke vs evoke definition more easily.

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 

Invoke – Meaning and Usage

Invoke comes from the Latin invocare (in- ‘upon’ + vocare ‘to call’) as the origin of this verb suggests, invoke  refers to calling upon something. There are two main meanings of this verb.

To call upon a deity or spirit in prayer, as a witness, or for inspiration/ summon through incantations

The goddess of fire was invoked by the priestess.

They held a religious ceremony to invoke the spirits.

The bearded priest claimed that he could invoke the holy spirits to assist them.

To cite or appeal to someone or something as an authority for an action or in support of an argument

He invoked his right to an attorney.

They invoked the aid of France against this attack.

The student invoked the history to prove her point.

When compared with evoke, invoke can be termed as a more direct and intentional action. Furthermore, the verb invoke is used with more practical and material things than evoke, which is usually associated with feelings and emotions.

The shaman invoked the holy spirits.

The shaman invoked the holy spirits.

How to Remember the Difference

If you need a mnemonic device, remember that “invoking” is something that you do intentionally. Both of these words start with “in.” By contrast, when something is “evoked” in your mind, it requires no effort on your part. It just pops into your head. Both of these start with an “e.”

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.’”

Where does the word evoke come from?

The first records of evoke in English come from around 1620. It’s based on the same Latin vocāre, “to call.” The prefix e- is a variant of ex-, which in evoke means “out” or “from.” The prefix e- is used in the same way in elicit and educe, which are synonyms of evoke.

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