prayed; praying; prays

transitive verb

: entreat, implore
often used as a function word in introducing a question, request, or plea
pray be careful
: to get or bring by praying

intransitive verb

: to make a request in a humble manner
: to address God or a god with adoration, confession, supplication, or thanksgiving

Example Sentences

There's little else to do now but hope and pray. The minister said, “Let us pray.” He prayed that they would have the strength to go on. He prayed that he would find a parking spot.
Recent Examples on the Web Among the most devout Americans who pray daily, attend religious services at least weekly, and say religion is very important in their life, 61% are climate skeptics. Emily Barone, Time, 18 Nov. 2022 Since Israel took control of the area from Jordan in 1967 an uneasy status quo has ensured that Jews are allowed to visit but not pray at this site. Abbas Al Lawati, CNN, 2 Nov. 2022 On other major Jewish holy days, secular Jews still drive their cars in Israel, and many do not pray. Patrick Kingsley, New York Times, 5 Oct. 2022 Under longstanding arrangements, Jews are allowed to visit, but not pray at the site., 2 Oct. 2022 Aventer concluded the post with a call for people to pray for her husband's healing. Stephanie Wenger,, 12 July 2022 The school tried to work out a solution so Kennedy could pray privately before or after the game. Jessica Gresko, Chron, 27 June 2022 Unsurprisingly, the Lapvonians who pray are overwhelmingly depicted as stupid, or at the very least hampered by delusion. Jess Bergman, The New Republic, 22 June 2022 And so many awful things happening to good people who pray did not make sense. Carolyn Hax, Washington Post, 17 June 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pray.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Middle English, from Anglo-French prier, praer, preier, from Latin precari, from prec-, prex request, prayer; akin to Old High German frāga question, frāgēn to ask, Sanskrit pṛcchati he asks

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of pray was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near pray

Cite this Entry

“Pray.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition



: to ask earnestly : beg
I pray you, tell me where they went
: to address God with adoration, confession, pleading, or thanksgiving

Legal Definition

: to ask for
plaintiff prays judgment against the defendants
used especially in pleadings

intransitive verb

: to make a request of a court especially in a complaint or petition
complainant prays for declaratory relief

More from Merriam-Webster on pray

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