I remember meeting a priest from Rome who described himself as a [missing word here] which he defined as one who writes prayers. I cannot for the life of me recall or find this word, and I'm starting to wonder if perhaps he coined it or borrowed it from another language.

  • Are you looking for a single word or for anything? When translating, a single word is often just not there (but a set phrase may exist). For cultural things, also the translation is often not there and a set phrase may not exist (but one can describe the situation usually in an unwieldy way). So there may not be an actual common phrase as an answer. It may end up being 'prayer writer'.
    – Mitch
    May 28 '14 at 15:49
  • OED's first definition for oration is a prayer or supplication to God. Now rare (in later use chiefly R.C. Church). So perhaps your priest went from that to orationer, defined by OED as (obsolete, rare) a person who makes an oration. Which would obviously be a "limited currency" usage - but not unreasonable, given native speakers would be highly motivated to ascribe some significance to the choice of orationist over the standard orator for "public speaker" in the more general sense. May 28 '14 at 16:12
  • Could the priest perhaps have used the word scrivener? It's an odd word, but he might have considered that he was merely making a copy of what God told him to write.
    – JLG
    May 28 '14 at 16:12
  • @FumbleFingers - I like 'orationist', but is there any evidence of that term? 'Orazionista' in Italian does not exist.
    – user66974
    May 28 '14 at 19:42
  • @Josh61: I spent 2-3 minutes searching Google Books and Internet looking for various combinations of words like write/s/r, compose/s/r, prayer/s, define, means, etc. I couldn't find any evidence that there is any such term - but since I already knew the (archaic?) oration = prayer, I thought I'd throw it in as a comment regarding what OP's priest might have said. I did find a few references to Sanskrit brāhmana as "one who writes prayers", but I thought it was hardly likely an RC priest would adopt such a usage! May 28 '14 at 20:01

A specialist in formal worship, i.e. the liturgy, is a liturgist. Understand, however, that this is a very broad term that is used differently in various traditions and denominations, and that the writing of prayers is only one of a liturgist's responsibilities.

In mainline Protestantism, a liturgist is typically a lay minister who helps to organize worship services. But in Catholicism and the high church, especially above the parochial level, a liturgist is a cleric whose role may include the composition of prayers as well as choosing hymns, existing prayers, and other variable aspects of a religious ceremony.

If a prayer is set to music, i.e. it is a hymn, the writer is a hymnist, or more archaically a hymnodist.


If the prayer is one of praise and in a poetic form, and is hence a psalm, then psalmist.

Otherwise, prayer-writer.

  • If I may quibble, no one writes any new psalms in any variant of Christianity I am familiar with; a psalmist may be someone who sets a psalm to music, but mainly refers to either the historical (various unknown) or the traditional (David) authors of the Book of Psalms. A native English-speaking Catholic priest would not use it to describe himself. If he set psalms to music he would have been a hymnist; if he created psalters he would have been a scribe or a binder or another craft-related word.
    – choster
    May 28 '14 at 18:58
  • @choster, I've always understood the biblical psalmist (traditionally David) as both a psalmist and the Psalmist with a capital, but psalmist also applying to any who composes such, and the dictionaries seem to agree
    – Jon Hanna
    May 28 '14 at 20:39
  • I wonder if this could be a regional distinction. In my experience, a psalmist isn't someone you can run into at Mass.
    – choster
    May 28 '14 at 21:41
  • 1
    @choster, I haven't come across any psalmists either, nor a regular prayer-writer in Christian contexts (in my own tradition conversely, it's so common for people to compose prayers or pieces of liturgy for a given occasion that it's rarely remarked upon). I have not though met people with several other skills. I don't recall ever meeting boat-builder, but I have definitely experienced boats.
    – Jon Hanna
    May 28 '14 at 21:58

Supplicant was the first thing I thought of, though that is more the one who prays the prayers. Perhaps it leads you towards your word, though.

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