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Avocation vs. vocation

A vocation is a calling, an occupation, or a large undertaking for which one is especially suited. It can be roughly synonymous with career or profession, though vocation connotes a seriousness or a commitment that these words don’t always bear. An avocation is something done in addition to one’s vocation—usually a hobby.

Both are rooted in the Latin vocāre, meaning to call. In its early English use, vocation usually had religious implications. One who had a vocation was called by God toward a certain line of work, often the priesthood. The word was in use without the religious overtones as early as the 16th century, and today it is commonly used for both religious callings and secular ones.

In avocation, the prefix a- is shortened from ab-, which means away, so, considered etymologically, an avocation is a calling away.

Examples


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Avocation

That’s her job, but her avocation is her 12-year-old son, Edward; her dogs; her husband … ; and gardening. [National Post]

Given this mindset, we are tempted to believe that we can work at our occupations to pay the bills and turn to our avocations to live out our callings. [Reclaiming the V Word, Dave Daubert and Tana Kjos]

[S]tories that roil Washington for days or even weeks barely create a ripple with most people who don’t follow politics as their job or their avocation. [Washington Post]

Vocation

A local sensor technology specialist is using some of the know-how from his vocation to pursue an unusual avocation: photographing American bald eagles from afar. [Dayton Daily News]

The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has recounted how his priestly vocation developed in the midst of Soviet persecution. [Catholic Culture]

Yes, nursing has now become a degree-based profession but it is no less a vocation than it was in Nightingale’s day. [Express]

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