Commonly Confused Words: Evoke and Invoke

Commonly Confused Words

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The verbs evoke and invoke come from the same Latin root meaning “to call," but their meanings aren't quite the same. 


  • The verb evoke means to summon, call forth, or call to mind.
  • The verb invoke means to call for support or assistance, cite in justification, or summon with incantations.


  • The taste of baked apples and the smell of a bonfire evoke the pleasures of autumn.
  • "[R]eturning to a place where childhoods happened, first jobs were held and mates were met can evoke strong sentiments about the passing of time and life choices."
    (Pamela Gwyn Kripke, "Once and Always a New Yorker." The New York Times, June 24, 2016)
  • "Never invoke the gods unless you really want them to appear. It annoys them very much."
    (G. K. Chesterton, Utopia of Usurers and Other Essays, 1917)
  • "The power rested in the magic of the Hughes name. Whoever chose to invoke the name, and exercise the influence that went with it, could do so. After all, everyone—from the man in the White House to the man in the street—believed it was Howard Hughes making the decisions and issuing the orders."
    (Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele, Empire: The Life, Legend, and Madness of Howard Hughes. W.W. Norton, 1979)

Usage Notes

  • "To evoke is to summon or call up a sentiment or memory, as in 'his writing perfectly evoked England before the war,' or 'the music evoked memories of her childhood.' To invoke is to seek help either from a supreme being or another powerful person, as in 'she invoked God to help her overcome her tribulations' or 'he invoked the King to spare him any further suffering.'"
    (Simon Heffer, Simply English: An A-Z of Avoidable Errors. Random House, 2014)
  • "Invoke has many meanings, and they all retain the sense of 'call on, call in.' The word originally referred to calling on, appealing to, or summoning God or a divine being. One can invoke a deity or spirit for inspiration, help, or protection, or as a witness. To invoke in this sense means 'to call on, solicit, appeal to, or petition for help or support.' . . .
    "To invoke also can mean 'to cite, mention, refer to (in order to influence people).'"
    (Stephen Spector, May I Quote You on That?: A Guide to Grammar and Usage. Oxford University Press, 2015)


    (a) The defendant tried unsuccessfully to _____ the principle of self-defense.

    (b) There's nothing like an album of old vacation photos to _____ memories of childhood.

    Answers to Practice Exercises

    Answers to Practice Exercises: Evoke and Invoke

    (a) The defendant tried unsuccessfully to invoke the principle of self-defense.

    (b) There's nothing like an album of old vacation photos to evoke memories of childhood.