In Robert Green's book Mastery, I encountered the word "vocation" many times. Green says:

The word “vocation” comes from the Latin meaning to call or to be called.

What is the difference between "vocation" and "calling"? Do native English speakers often use the word "vocation"?

  • What did the dictionary tell you?
    – tchrist
    Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 20:10
  • To what audience is the book directed? Whether to Christian believers or to business students makes a difference.
    – Theresa
    Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 20:12
  • to business students Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 20:13
  • 1
    'Vocation' is currently used in English as a slightly fancier term for 'job' or 'career' (those last two are slightly different, but 'vocation' covers what's common between them. 'Calling', on the other hand, while it is metaphorically used sometimes to be like a career ("Why are you a doctor at a leper colony? I was called to that profession.", usually it is used in reference to a spiritual or religious life (which is one way to spend your life, just like a career in, say, accounting is a way to spend a life).
    – Mitch
    Commented Sep 3, 2018 at 19:43
  • 2
    'Vocation' and 'calling' are not terribly common, but also not rare. 'Vocation' is often a heading on a form (for a resume or CV or passport to say what you work as). 'Calling' might be used in telling someone how dedicated you are to your profession, almost in a sense of modesty (ie the reason you have this job is not for money or fame but because something ineffable 'called' you to it)
    – Mitch
    Commented Sep 3, 2018 at 19:45

1 Answer 1


Hmm, my answer to this is in the comments, but I think it should be here:

Put very generally, "vocation" usually is used to refer to the job or occupation that someone has, whereas "calling" has a much larger component of what someone see's as what they should, or want to be doing.

"Vocation" is not used all that commonly I think, but it is used. I think you could probably say the same for "calling".

I'll make this answer "community wiki", since others have made the same point as I did already.

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