If X prays to God for Y like this:

May God give you success!

It is called 'prayer or supplication' i.e. positive wish...

What about negative prayer? What is that called?

If X prays to God for Y like this:

May God give you punishment!

May God give you a disease!

or if there is no particular word then can we say:

X prayed against Y.

  • People sometimes speak of "a pact with the devil". Normally wishing evil is associated with sin and in Christianity the devil is the guy you are looking for.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 13, 2022 at 10:16

4 Answers 4


Any speech or writing that is directed towards a deity is considered a "prayer", whether the words are positive or negative, and the verb form is to "pray". There is no special word for a negative prayer or act of praying to my knowledge.

You can, however, use "pray against" exactly as you suggested. You can also specify what kind of prayer it is with the word "for", as in these examples:

He prays for peace. (positive)
He prays for their destruction. (negative)

While we don't have a special word for the prayer itself, we do have special words for the action a deity might take in response to a prayer. If a negative prayer is successful, we might say that the deity has "cursed" the target. Likewise, a successful positive prayer causes the target to be "blessed" by the deity.

Neither of these words technically describe the prayer, although colloquially some speakers might conflate the deities actions with the prayer, and say something like "I curse you every night" to mean "I pray for harm to happen to you every night." However, some listeners may mistake the meaning of this sentence to mean "I cast harmful magic at you every night" or simply "I say bad things about you every night", because while "curse" is the correct word to use for a deity's negative actions towards something, it has multiple other meanings.


curse is both a verb and a noun. According to Etymonline the word is of uncertain origin.

There are several less-used synonyms but God curses the serpent and the KJV invariably uses 'curse' for three different Hebrew words.

In the Middle Ages some debated the Church's sanctioning of cursing as retribution against immoral behaviour, arguing that it was blasphemous because it, in effect, commanded God to do something.[source] There is a curse on Shakespeare's gravestone.

The Harry Potter series was repeatedly banned from libraries in the US, partly because it contained spells and curses.


I'm not sure there's really a special term in English for that. You could call it a curse, but that's a much broader concept of wishing someone harm, not specifically by asking a deity for it. If there is a term for it it's obscure enough a random English speaker would be unlikely to know it.


The noun curse could be used for what you describe. It's also a verb.

From the OED (2nd Edition)

curse, n. (kɜːs) Forms: 1–4 curs, 4–5 kors, 4–6 curss(e, 5 curce, 5– curse. [Late OE. curs, of unknown origin; no word of similar form and sense is known in Teutonic, Romanic, or Celtic. (Of connexion with cross, which has been suggested, there is no trace.) In its various uses the opposite of blessing.]

  1. a. An utterance consigning, or supposed or intended to consign, (a person or thing) to spiritual and temporal evil, the vengeance of the deity, the blasting of malignant fate, etc. It may be uttered by the deity, or by persons supposed to speak in his name, or to be listened to by him.

Source: OED Second Edition

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