Pray or Prey?

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. correct tick
  • "Prey on" means to hunt for.
    • The sea bass prey on the sand eels. correct tick
  • "Prey" is the object of an attack.
    • Sand eels are a common prey of sea bass. correct tick
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. correct tick (Cardinal Francis Spellman)
  • You should pray for a sound mind in a sound body. correct tick (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. correct tick
  • 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. correct tick

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)

Praying Mantis Not Preying Mantis

praying mantisA 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.
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This page was written by Craig Shrives.