Is there a term or phrase to describe an invitation you extend to someone only because you expect that they will not accept it? I've been using the made up "faux-vite," but I suspect there must be a proper name for this.

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    – Tom Au
    Jan 30, 2012 at 18:44

8 Answers 8


You could call that a pro forma invitation.

pro for·ma
1. Done as a formality; perfunctory.

In fact, perfunctory itself would serve:

1. Done routinely and with little interest or care: The operator answered the phone with a perfunctory greeting.
2. Acting with indifference; showing little interest or care.

If it were required that you invite someone even though you might not want to, you might label it an obligatory invitation.

But there are no long-standing words I know of that pertain only to invitations (such as your faux-vite).

  • I think there is a difference between a perfunctory invitation and not wanting someone to accept the invitation at all.
    – drakorg
    Jan 30, 2012 at 15:42
  • I think pro forma applies to the obligatory invitation (you're inviting all the cousins so you include Bob even though you don't actually know him), but I'm not sure it conveys "don't want him to accept". I can't tell if the OP doesn't expect an acceptance or actively doesn't wnat one. Jan 31, 2012 at 15:43
  • That the invitation is pro forma (issued merely as a formality) could convey the opposite idea from what the OP has in mind: that the person doesn't really need to be invited because everybody involved takes it for granted that the person will come to the event anyway, and that the invitation is issued for some purely bureaucratic reason.
    – jsw29
    Apr 29, 2023 at 16:19

I've heard this called an "unvite," but maybe that was just on Seinfeld.


They could be described as as token or nominal invitations. Either would suggest that only the most basic socially acceptable gesture has been extended to the recipients.

From Collins Dictionary,

You use token to describe things or actions which are small or unimportant but are meant to show particular intentions or feelings which may not be sincere.
"The announcement was welcomed as a step in the right direction, but was widely seen as a token gesture."


A "courtesy invitation" is extended when you don't really expect it to be accepted.


I've heard it called a non-vite (spelling? perhaps nonvite. I've only heard it), but that was likely idiolectic.


In Ireland and Scotland people use the phrase a fiddler's invite, which could be used in this context. However it's usually used to refer to a late invitation to things like a wedding or an event where someone drops out and you get a late option to replace them.

The term a sailor's invite is an Arabic phrase which means exactly this. It has been down voted above as you won't find references to it in English. It comes from Egypt where people consider the sea faring folk of Alexandria to be insincere.


It's an Egyptian idiom, and it's a boatman's invitation. The guy is in his boat and invites you to eat with him, which isn't gonna happen, and you both know it.

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    – Community Bot
    May 16, 2023 at 7:26

I always thought this was called a "sailor's invitation" but I cannot find the term listed on the internet.

  • I just ran a Google Books search for "a sailor's invitation," and it doesn't return any matches that have the sense you refer to in your answer. Perhaps a similar phrase (with the intended meaning) exists but differs in some crucial way from the wording you give.
    – Sven Yargs
    Nov 7, 2015 at 8:54

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