The Grammarphobia Blog

Invitation only?

Q: I’ve always assumed that the use of “invite” is incorrect when referring to an “invitation.” Is that a correct assumption?

A: The word “invite,” accented on the first syllable, has been used as a noun meaning an invitation for several hundred years.

Nevertheless, the Oxford English Dictionary calls it a “colloquial” usage – that is, characteristic of informal conversation. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.) agrees, labeling it “informal.”

The OED‘s first citation for the published use of “invite” as a noun is from Hamon L’Estrange’s The Alliance of Divine Offices (a 1659 commentary on The Book of Common Prayer): “Bishop Cranmer … gives him an earnest invite to England.”

The novelist Fanny Burney wrote in her diary in 1778: “Everybody bowed and accepted the invite but me … for I have no intention of snapping at invites from the eminent.”

And Sydney, Lady Morgan, wrote in Passages From My Autobiography in 1811: “We have refused two invites for to-day. … For Monday we have had three dinner invites.”

You would think that after all this time, dictionaries would accept the noun “invite” as standard English. And at least one dictionary does. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.) lists it without reservation.

As for me, I think “invite” is OK for informal occasions, but I’ll expect an “invitation” if the Queen asks me to Buckingham Palace.

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