Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • intransitive v. To utter or address a prayer or prayers to God, a god, or another object of worship.
  • intransitive v. To make a fervent request or entreaty.
  • transitive v. To utter or say a prayer or prayers to; address by prayer.
  • transitive v. To ask (someone) imploringly; beseech. Now often used elliptically for I pray you to introduce a request or entreaty: Pray be careful.
  • transitive v. To make a devout or earnest request for: I pray your permission to speak.
  • transitive v. To move or bring by prayer or entreaty.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To petition or solicit help from a supernatural or higher being.
  • v. To humbly beg a person for aid or their time.
  • v. to communicate with God for any reason.
  • adv. please; used to make a polite request.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • See pry.
  • intransitive v. To make request with earnestness or zeal, as for something desired; to make entreaty or supplication; to offer prayer to a deity or divine being as a religious act; specifically, to address the Supreme Being with adoration, confession, supplication, and thanksgiving.
  • intransitive v.
  • transitive v. To address earnest request to; to supplicate; to entreat; to implore; to beseech.
  • transitive v. To ask earnestly for; to seek to obtain by supplication; to entreat for.
  • transitive v. To effect or accomplish by praying.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To ask earnestly; beg; entreat; supplicate, as for a personal grace or favor.
  • In religious usage, to make devout petition to God, or (in some forms of religion) to any object of worship, as a saint or an angel; more generally, to enter into spiritual communion with God, usually through the medium of speech. See prayer.
  • I pray, usually, by ellipsis, pray, a common formula introducing a question, invitation, suggestion, or request. Compare prithee.
  • To ask earnestly; beg; entreat; supplicate; urge.
  • In religious usage, to address a desire or petition to (specifically to God) devoutly and with reverence.
  • To offer up, as a prayer; utter in devotion.
  • To make entreaty or petition for; crave; implore: as, the plaintiff prays judgment of the court.
  • To effect, move, or bring by prayer or entreaty: followed by an adverb or a preposition particularizing the meaning.
  • Synonyms To crave, implore, beseech, petition, importune. See prayer.
  • An obsolete spelling of prey.
  • A dialectal form of pry.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. address a deity, a prophet, a saint or an object of worship; say a prayer
  • v. call upon in supplication; entreat

Etymologies

Middle English preien, from Old French preier, from Latin precārī, from precē, pl. of *prex, prayer; see prek- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English preien, from Anglo-Norman preier, from Old French preier, proier, (French prier), from Late Latin precāre, from Latin precārī, present active infinitive of precor, from prex, precis, “a prayer, a request”; akin to Sanskrit prach “to ask”, Old English frignan, fricgan, German fragen, Dutch vragen. Confer deprecate, imprecate, precarious. (Wiktionary)

Examples

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  • "Pray - she prays with her knees upwards: said of a woman much given to gallantry and intrigue."
    - Francis Grose, 'The Vulgar Tongue'.

    September 18, 2008

  • To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner, confessedly unworthy.�? — The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce

    March 23, 2008