Convocation, commencement or invocation

Convocation, commencement and invocation are three words that are similar, but have different meanings. They are often confused. We will examine the differing definitions of the words convocation, commencement and invocation, where these terms came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

A convocation is a large, formal gathering of people to take part in a special purpose. A convocation may involve an assembly of clergy, academics, or members of another institution. A convocation of clergy is a gathering of ecclesiastics in order to discuss the governing of their church. A convocation ceremony at a college or university involves the gathering of faculty and graduates in order to celebrate their graduation. Generally, each academic department such as Mathematics, Engineering, English, Biology, Chemistry, Geology, Business, Art, Nursing, etc., holds its own convocation. At a convocation, the achievements of each individual student may be recognized, as the gathering is much smaller. A convocation usually occurs on graduation day or the day before. The theme and attitude of a convocation reflects the personality of the department. Some convocations are full of ritual and tradition, and are somber affairs. Other convocations may more resemble a party and celebration of the graduates’ achievements. The graduate does not receive his diploma at the convocation. The word convocation is derived from the Latin word convocationem, which means a calling to assemble.

The word commencement simply means the beginning of something. In North America, a commencement is a ceremony connected with graduating from an academic institution. Degrees and diplomas are conferred at the commencement ceremony. There is usually a commencement address to the graduating class, who are arrayed in regalia such as cap and gown, stoles, honorary cords and tassels. The students usually enter in a procession to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance, the traditional graduation march. At a commencement, undergraduate, graduate and doctoral candidates receive their diplomas. Deans, the provost, the university president, the chancellor, professors and other academics are present for the ritual, which may take place in an auditorium, athletic gym or other large gathering place, often on campus. Ceremonial honorary degrees may also be conferred at this time. Since the commencement or graduation ceremony is for the entire school, it is often impossible for the individual accomplishments of each recipient to be recognized. This is why departments hold their own convocations. At most schools, it is not mandatory to participate in the graduation ceremony in order to receive one’s diploma. The word commencement is derived from the Old French word, comencement, which means to make a start. The word commencement to mean a ceremony connected with graduation was first used in the United States in 1850.

An invocation is the act of invoking or calling upon someone or something. Most often, invocation is used to mean a spell or a prayer that calls upon a higher power. In the Christian tradition, an invocation is a phrase that specifically calls upon the deity as a preamble to a prayer, such as “Heavenly Father” or “Dear Lord”. The word invocation is derived from the Latin word invocationem, which means a prayer or petition.


As many as 348 students were awarded degrees at the 7th Undergraduate-Postgraduate Convocation of NUST School of Civil and Environmental Engineering (SCEE) at the university’s main campus on Tuesday. (The Express Tribune)

Derreck Kayongo, founder of the Global Soap Project, will be the featured speaker at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology’s  Martin Luther King Jr. Day convocation. (The Terre Haute Tribune Star)

Vanderbilt announced earlier this month that Scott Tierno, executive director of Executive Ceremonies & Celebrations for Southern New Hampshire University, will be the new director of the Office of Commencement and Special Events. (The Vanderbilt Hustler)

Abby Wambach, two-time Olympic gold medalist, international soccer’s all-time leading scorer and feminist icon announced a new book with a sizzling Instagram video that called back to her viral 2018 Barnard College commencement speech.  (USA Today)

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers of the Tree of Life Congregation in Squirrel Hill will deliver the invocation at Gov. Tom Wolf’s second term swearing-in ceremony Jan. 15 in Harrisburg, the inaugural committee announced Monday. (The Tribune-Review)

In early 2016, members of the temple’s newly formed Tucson chapter asked Sahuarita officials to put them on the list to give the invocation, a task rotated among local faith groups. (The Sarhuhita Sun)

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