prec·​a·​to·​ry | \ ˈpre-kə-ˌtȯr-ē How to pronounce precatory (audio) \

Definition of precatory

: expressing a wish

Did You Know?

Nowadays, you're most likely to see "precatory" used in legal contexts to distinguish statements that merely express a wish from those that create a legal obligation. For example, if you add a provision to your will asking someone to take care of your pet if you die, that provision is merely precatory. Outside of jurisprudence, you might see references to such things as "precatory dress codes" or "precatory stockholder proposals" - all of which are non-binding. "Precatory" traces to Latin precari ("to pray"), and it has always referred to something in the nature of an entreaty or supplication. For example, a precatory hymn is one that beseeches "from sin and sorrow set us free" -versus a laudatory hymn (that is, one giving praise).

First Known Use of precatory

1636, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for precatory

Late Latin precatorius, from Latin precari to pray — more at pray

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The first known use of precatory was in 1636

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Cite this Entry

“Precatory.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for precatory


prec·​a·​to·​ry | \ ˈpre-kə-ˌtōr-ē How to pronounce precatory (audio) \

Legal Definition of precatory

: expressing a wish or desire but not creating a legal obligation or affirmative duty a precatory remark the precatory words

Note: When interpreting wills, courts will look to whether a direction is precatory or mandatory in carrying out the testator's intent. Thus, courts generally will not construe language to create a trust if the language is only precatory and there is no evidence that the language was intended to create a trust. Words such as with the hope that or it is my wish that are often considered precatory.

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