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[prey] /preɪ/
verb (used with object)
to offer devout petition, praise, thanks, etc., to (God or an object of worship).
to offer (a prayer).
to bring, put, etc., by praying:
to pray a soul into heaven.
to make earnest petition to (a person).
to make petition or entreaty for; crave:
She prayed his forgiveness.
to offer devout petition, praise, thanks, etc., to God or to an object of worship.
to enter into spiritual communion with God or an object of worship through prayer.
verb (used without object)
to make entreaty or supplication, as to a person or for a thing.
Origin of pray
1250-1300; Middle English preien < Old French preierLatin precārī to beg, pray, derivative of prex (stem prec-) prayer; akin to Old English fricgan, Dutch vragen, German fragen, Gothic fraihnan to ask
Related forms
prayingly, adverb
outpray, verb (used with object)
unpraying, adjective
Can be confused
pray, prayer, prey.
4. importune, entreat, supplicate, beg, beseech, implore. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for pray
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • With a nod and a smile, Aspasia said, "Continue the music, I pray you."

    Philothea Lydia Maria Child
  • pray accept this author's copy with his best and hopefullest wishes.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • And pray now let me ask you, If the honour of that will not be an honour to you?

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9) Samuel Richardson
  • If you can command the good creature to a place worthy of her, pray do for my sake.

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9) Samuel Richardson
  • Why, I pray you, good Sir, should I be made miserable for life?

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9) Samuel Richardson
British Dictionary definitions for pray


when intr, often foll by for; when tr, usually takes a clause as object. to utter prayers (to God or other object of worship): we prayed to God for the sick child
(when transitive, usually takes a clause as object or an infinitive) to make an earnest entreaty (to or for); beg or implore: she prayed to be allowed to go, leave, I pray you
(transitive) (rare) to accomplish or bring by praying: to pray a soul into the kingdom
(archaic) I beg you; please: pray, leave us alone
Word Origin
C13: from Old French preier, from Latin precārī to implore, from prex an entreaty; related to Old English fricgan, Old High German frāgēn to ask, Old Norse fregna to enquire
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for pray

early 13c., "ask earnestly, beg," also (c.1300) "pray to a god or saint," from Old French preier "to pray" (c.900, Modern French prier), from Vulgar Latin *precare (also source of Italian pregare), from Latin precari "ask earnestly, beg, entreat," from *prex (plural preces, genitive precis) "prayer, request, entreaty," from PIE root *prek- "to ask, request, entreat" (cf. Sanskrit prasna-, Avestan frashna- "question;" Old Church Slavonic prositi, Lithuanian prasyti "to ask, beg;" Old High German frahen, German fragen, Old English fricgan "to ask" a question).

Parenthetical expression I pray you, "please, if you will," attested from 1510s, contracted to pray 16c. Related: Prayed; praying. Praying mantis attested from 1809. The "Gardener's Monthly" of July 1861 lists other names for it as camel cricket, soothsayer, and rear horse.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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