Thursday, December 23, 2004

Etymology Today from M-W: precatory\PREK-uh-tor-ee\
: expressing a wish

Example sentence:

We here convey our wishes
In this precatory phrase:
May peace and joy be with you
In all the coming days!

[So do I! - NB]

Nowadays, you're most likely to see "precatory" used in legal contexts to distinguish statements that merely express a wish from those that create a legal obligation. For example, if you add a provision to your will asking someone to take care of your pet if you die, that provision is merely precatory. Outside of jurisprudence, you might see references to such things as "precatory dress codes" or "precatory stockholder proposals" — all of which are non-binding. "Precatory" traces to Latin "precari" ("to pray"), and it has always referred to something in the nature of an entreaty or supplication. For example, a precatory hymn is one that beseeches "from sin and sorrow set us free" — versus a laudatory hymn (that is, one giving praise).
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