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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 God or any higher being, for the sake of adoration, thanks, petition for help, etc.
    Muslims pray in the direction of Mecca.
    • 2021 January 13, Bethan McKernan, “Turkey drought: Istanbul could run out of water in 45 days”, in The Guardian:
      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.
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[1]:
      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), 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.”