Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Vocation

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is vocation. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Vocation can refer simply to an occupation, or it can refer to a strong desire to pursue a particular kind of work or course of action. 

// Since he was a teenager, he knew that he would find his vocation in religious work.

// She is headed to medical school to pursue her vocation as a doctor.

VOCATION in Context

“The play, adapted by Eric Coble from a young adult novel by Lois Lowry, is set in the unnamed ‘community’ over which the committee presides. The leaders choose mandatory vocations for every citizen, come up with draconian rules, diligently enforce them (sometimes with capital punishment) and control natural human emotions with drugs.” — Betsie Freeman, The Omaha (Nebraska) World-Herald, 27 Apr. 2022

Did You Know?

When vocation was first used in English in the 15th century it referred specifically to a summons from God to perform a particular task or function in life, especially a religious one. This meaning is no surprise given the word’s source: it comes from Latin vocation-, vocacio, meaning “summons,” which in turn comes from vocāre, meaning “to call.” Vocation also has a secular position in the English language as a word for the strong desire to do a certain kind of work, or as a word for the work itself, making vocation a synonym of the words calling and occupation.

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