Pray or Prey?

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Difference between "Pray" and "Prey"?

"Pray" and "prey" are easy to confuse because they sound identical (i.e., they are perfect homonyms). However, their meanings are very different.
  • "Pray" means to address God or an object of worship (to say a prayer)
    • Pray for forgiveness.
  • "Prey on" means to hunt for.
    • The sea bass prey on the sand eels.
  • "Prey" is the object of an attack.
    • Sand eels are a common prey of sea bass.
pray or prey?

More about "Pray" and "Prey"

"Pray" and "prey" are common words, so your readers will expect you to use the right one.


"Pray" is a verb. It means "to address God or another deity or object of worship." In other words, it means "to say a prayer."

Example sentences with "pray":
  • Pray as if everything depended upon God and work as if everything depended upon man. (Cardinal Francis Spellman)
  • You should pray for a sound mind in a sound body. (Roman poet Juvenal, AD 55-127)


"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.

Example sentences with "prey":
  • 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.

Terms with "Pray" and "Prey"

Here are some common terms with "pray" and "prey":

  • Pray to God
  • Pray tell
  • Pray on (a mat)
  • Praying mantis
  • "Pray" by Take That
  • Fall prey to
  • Prey on (a deer)

Ready for the Test?

Help Us Improve Grammar Monster

  • Do you disagree with something on this page?
  • Did you spot a typo?

Find Us Quicker!

  • When using a search engine (e.g., Google, Bing), you will find Grammar Monster quicker if you add #gm to your search term.
Next lesson >

See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? pled guilty or pleaded guilty? who's or whose? Glossary of easily confused words Glossary of common errors Glossary of grammatical terms lasagna or lasagne? The top 20 misspelled words

Page URL