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See also: Pray


Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English preien, from Anglo-Norman preier, from Old French preier, proier (French prier), from Latin precārī, from prex, precis (a prayer, a request), from Proto-Italic *preks, from Proto-Indo-European *preḱ- (to ask, woo).

Cognate via Indo-European of Old English frignan, fricgan, German fragen, Dutch vragen. Compare deprecate, imprecate, precarious.



pray (third-person singular simple present prays, present participle praying, simple past and past participle prayed)

  1. (religion) To direct words, thoughts, or one's attention to a deity or any higher being, for the sake of adoration, thanks, petition for help, etc.
    Muslims pray in the direction of Mecca.
    • 1905, Lord Dunsany [i.e., Edward Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany], The Gods of Pegāna, London: [Charles] Elkin Mathews, [], →OCLC:
      Pray to the small gods and hope that they may hear thee. Yet what mercy should the small gods have, who themselves made Death and Pain; or shall they restrain their old hound Time for thee?
    • 2021 January 13, Bethan McKernan, “Turkey drought: Istanbul could run out of water in 45 days”, in The Guardian[1]:
      The critically low level of rainfall in the second half of 2020 – approaching 50% year on year for November – led the religious affairs directorate to instruct imams and their congregations to pray for rain last month.
  2. To humbly beg a person for aid or their time.
  3. (obsolete) To ask earnestly for; to seek to obtain by supplication; to entreat for.
  4. To wish or hope strongly for a particular outcome.
    She is praying that the Red Sox will win tonight.
  5. (obsolete) To implore, to entreat, to request.
    • 1596, Edmund Spenser, “Book VI, Canto IX”, in The Faerie Queene. [], London: [] [John Wolfe] for William Ponsonbie, →OCLC, stanza 7:
      They prayd him sit, and gave him for to feed
      Such homely what as serves the simple clowne,
      That doth despise the dainties of the towne []
    • 1890, James George Frazer, The Golden Bough, volume 2, page 370:
      In time of drought the Abchases of the Caucasus sacrifice an ox to Ap-hi, the god of thunder and lightning, and an old man prays him to send rain, thunder, and lightning, telling him that the crops are parched.
    • 2021, Yang di-Pertuan Agong, “Schedule”, in Emergency (Essential Powers) (No. 2) Ordinance 2021[2], page 31:
      I humbly pray to the Honorable Court for the order for the removal of the publication which contains fake news to be granted.
Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

Etymology 2[edit]

Ellipsis of I pray you, I pray thee, whence also prithee.


pray (not comparable)

  1. (archaic or formal) Please; used to make a polite request
    pray silence for…
  2. Alternative form of pray tell (I ask you (insincerely))
    • 20 September 2013, Martina Hyde, “Is the pope Catholic?”, in The Guardian[3]:
      He is a South American, so perhaps revolutionary spirit courses through Francis's veins. But what, pray, does the Catholic church want with doubt?

Middle English[edit]



  1. Alternative form of preie
    • 1470–1483 (date produced), Thom̃s Malleorre [i.e., Thomas Malory], “[Morte Arthur]”, in Le Morte Darthur (British Library Additional Manuscript 59678), [England: s.n.], folio 449, verso, lines 15–18:
      Than ſpake ẜ Gawayne And ſeyde brothir · ẜ Aggravayne I pray you and charge you meve no ſuch · maters no more a fore me fro wyte you well I woll nat be of youre counceyle //
      Then spoke Sir Gawain, and said, “Brother, Sir Agrivain, I pray you and charge you move not such matters any more before me, for be ye assured I will not be of your counsel.”