English Place-name Society

Survey of English Place-Names

A county-by-county guide to the linguistic origins of England’s place-names – a project of the English Place-Name Society, founded 1923.

Pray Heath

Early-attested site in the Parish of Woking

Historical Forms

  • la Preye 1263 Ass
  • ate Praye 1332 SR
  • Preymede 1335 WintonCart


One difficulty remains, however, to be noted. Aubrey (v, 402) in noting certain characteristic Surrey words, writes as follows: “Pre i.e. a Plank laid a-cross a Channel or Gutter to go over, which in other counties is called a Bridge,” while the EDD (s. v. pray ) gives pray as a Surrey word denoting “a long narrow foot-bridge, consisting of a plank and a rail, generally across a ford, a path by or over a brook or pond.” No etymological explanation for pray or pre as denoting a plank-bridge can be offered, and there is no evidence for the existence of such a bridge at some of the places and fields called Prae or Pray . It may be suspected, therefore, that the explanation is due to a blunder.Such bridges would be specially common in low-lying meadow land, and from time to time such bridges would naturally be called Pray Bridge, because they led across such lands (cf. Preybrigge 1441 Chertsey, and Prey Bridge, a foot-bridge still so called, in Mickleham). When the true sense of Pray was forgotten, the idea may well have arisen that it denoted a particular kind of bridge, hence Aubrey's explanation of it, and the use of the term to this day in local speech.