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We invoke something using an invocation.

Is the use of a k and a c in words of the same root like this unusual? Might I reasonably expect invocation to be spelled invokation?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Actually, invocation comes from the Latin invocatio(n), from the verb invocare, via Old French; invoke comes from French invoquer, from the Latin invocare.
in the first case the word derives from a word containing ca, which is maintained in the English word; in the latter case, the word derives from a French work containing que, which has been changed in ke.

There are some words that derives from a word in another language that contains que. In some cases, the que part is changed in ke; in other cases, the que part is kept in English too. For example, conquest derives from the Old French conquest(e), which comes from the Latin conquirere; conquer derives from Old French conquerre, which comes from the Latin conquirere.

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+1 I was going to post that one "que -> ke", I think it's most likely that the words developed like that. –  Alenanno Aug 12 '11 at 13:24
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Yes. The OED gives the forms "invoque", "invoak" and "invoke" as historical spellings for "invoke" in English - it has apparently never been "invoce". Really it's parallel with pairs like "canticle/chant", where one came direct from Latin and the other through French; but in most cases this affected the pronuncation, but here only the spelling. –  Colin Fine Aug 12 '11 at 13:27

Actually, taking a look at their etymologies, you'd be expecting "invoke" to be spelt "invoce"!

Their roots are:

invoke: late 15c., from M.Fr. envoquer (12c.), from L. invocare "call upon, implore," from in- "upon" (see in- (2)) + vocare "to call,"

Invocation: late 14c., "petition (to God or a god) for aid or comfort; invocation, prayer;" also "a summoning of evil spirits," from O.Fr. invocation (12c.), from L. invocationem, noun of action from pp. stem of invocare

So, they've got the exact same root, but why is "invoke" spelt "invoke", or "invocation" spelt "invocation"?

My conjecture is that "invoce" was deemed easily confused in pronunciation (Invose?) as it is followed by an "e", and so, to reaffirm its "k" sound, they wrote it as "invoke" instead of "invoce". "Invocation" is followed by an "a", so change of spelling was not necessary.

And by the way, yes, that's the correct word.

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Why should it be "invoce"? You don't give explanations for this. I find it most likely to be something like "invo[que]r" -> "invo[ke]". –  Alenanno Aug 12 '11 at 13:28
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It's pretty directly explained in the first line of the quoted passage; "invoke" is derived from "invocare". In latin, "c" is a hard k sound, so when it mutated to English, the letter eventually changed because "c" is ambiguous in that syllable (voce). Likewise, the "c" is non-ambiguous (or at least less ambigious) in the syllable "-cation", so the letter never morphed. –  matthias Aug 12 '11 at 16:03

For "invocation," your cognate should be "vocal." The spelling of "invoke" was likely a convention adopted in spite of the etymology.

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