Pray and Prey

Occasionally, there is confusion over the words pray and prey. This most commonly occurs with the following terms:
  • Pray to God
  • Fall prey to
  • Pray tell
  • Pray on (a mat)
  • Prey on (a deer)

Pray

The word pray is a verb which means to address God or another deity or object of worship. In other words, it means to say a prayer.

Examples:
  • Pray as if everything depended upon God and work as if everything depended upon man. (Francis Cardinal Spellman, 1889-1967)
  • You should pray for a sound mind in a sound body. (Juvenal, AD 55-127)

Prey

The word prey can be a verb or a noun. As a verb, to prey on something means to hunt for something, or to exploit something (usually a person). As a noun, prey is the thing being hunted or exploited.

Examples:
  • Skuas like to prey on Cape Petrel eggs, but Cape Petrels will aggressively defend their nests by ejecting stomach oil at intruders.
  • As well as having a keen sense of smell and being able to feel vibrations, sharks can see well (even at night), so they never have trouble finding their prey.
PRAYING MANTIS NOT PREYING MANTIS

A praying mantis is named after the way it holds its hands in a prayer position. Of course, it preys on its victims, but that's not where its name comes from.

A Quick Test