Some of the best moments in my life are when I proofread myself in conversation. 😀 I was talking to my husband and said “invoke” (or “evoke,” can’t remember now!), stopped and said to him, “Do I mean invoke or evoke?” After some debate about it, the simple answer was–we didn’t know. We had some sort of idea, and after research–our idea was kind of correct. Read on to find out the difference!
When you’re invoking something, you’re doing it directly–you’re active. It originally meant to ask for help from a higher being, basically praying. However, as most other words, the meaning of invoke has changed a bit. It now also means to cause, bring about, or effect. For example, “I invoked my mother’s wrath.” In this case, I caused my mother to be angry. In legal terminology, it can also mean to cite something.
Since I’m here, I thought I’d mention invocation. Invocation is the act of petitioning or help and is frequently used in religious ceremonies. For example, “The Priest said an invocation during mass.”
So unfortunately, evoke also has multiple meanings. Nothing like English to confuse people, right? Well evoke originally meant to call forth, like summoning a spirit–much like invoke. However, it can also mean to “suggest” or “bring to mind.” For example, you can say “She evoked the spirit of Jove.” In this case, since Jove is a god, she would be summoning him. You can also say, “It evoked memories of my childhood.” This would mean that it reminded me of my childhood.
The reason I brought up invocation earlier is because of evocation. While invocation means to petition for help through prayer, evocation maintains the idea of “summoning.” Those of you who are gamers might remember a spell called evocation in World of Warcraft, where a mage could regain mana. In essence, the mage is summoning some sort of spirit who helps regenerate mana–hence today’s image! (Yes, I’m a gamer geek as well!)
When using evoke and invoke, you might want to adhere to the newer forms, being “to suggest” and “to cause” respectively. It can be confusing to use them when referring to magical summoning–but to clarify, invoke is asking assistance from a higher being whereas evoke is actually summoning that being. Using invocation and evocation may be a clearer distinction for you, so you can always formulate your sentence to use those words. Good luck!