A wish can be an idle expression of a desire that things could be different than they actually are at the current time - in other words, a counterfactual:
- "I wish I were a millionaire!"
- "I wish I hadn't drunk those last five beers."
- "I wish Grandma were still alive."
A wish can also be a type of prayer, sometimes barely religious and hardly conscious of being a prayer; this type of prayer is generally simply for the health or happiness of another:
- "We wish you a merry Christmas."
- "During his illness, his room was constantly full of well-wishers."
It can also be a more explicit form of what a Christian would call "pagan" and others would call "superstitious" prayer; the object of this type of wish is usually kept secret for magical reasons:
- tossing a coin in a well
- breaking a wishbone
In fairy tales, one may meet magical beings (djinni, leprechauns, talking goldfish) and be granted wishes; these are specific requests, granted immediately, and often with cruel irony.
Hope, on the other hand, deals with what is possible - now or in the future - without making a counterfactual change:
- "I hope you feel better soon."
- "I hope we get there in time."
Since this type of hope is essentially passive, it is often mocked: "Hope in one hand, and $#*& in the other - see which one fills up first!"
Hope can also deal with events and outcomes that are unknown to the speaker, and over which s/he has no control:
- "I hope Jane got home safely."
- "I hope Grandpa's in a better place now."
Hope can also be negative; the desire expressed does not have to be likely or even possible:
- "I hope you die in a fire."
- "I hope you rot in Hell."
Hope is also the belief - sometimes against all evidence - that things will be better in the future than they are now:
- "I live in hope that I'll find my pet rock again someday."
- "Hope dies last."
Despair is the absence or abandonment of this type of hope.