I want a phrase for "to make a wish" instead of a single verb "to wish", in order to make the line of lyrics long enough for the music. The noun for "wish" may be optatum, but I didn't find a word for "to make", and dictionaries don't show this collocation.

Are there existent usages of this construction? If not, are there any nice ways to make a parallel?

4 Answers 4


"Making a wish" seems to me to be essentially "making a prayer" to some unknown power in hopes that it will be granted. In that case, I might offer preces precari, "to make prayers," used with an internal accusative. It's found in the ritualistic language of Cato (De Agri Cultura 134), but given the ritualistic origin of "make a wish," I'd say it fits.

Cicero also has preces adhibere (De Natura Deorum 1.3) with a meaning of something like "to make prayers", so that could also work.

For some reason, precem is rarely attested, but it is possible, too, especially if you're emphasizing just a single wish.


A relatively literal translation would be votum facere (literally, “make a prayer”), although it generally seems to be used in the plural, e.g. Cic. Pro Milone 76:

Imperium ille si nactus esset, omitto socios, exteras nationes, reges, tetrarchas; vota enim faceretis ut in eos se potius immitteret quam in vestras possessiones, vestra tecta, vestras pecunias.
If he had obtained power, I'm not talking about our allies, foreign nations, kings and princes; for you would have made prayers that he would hurl himself at them rather than at your property, your houses and your money.

Or In Catilinam 2, 18:

Sed hosce homines minime puto pertimescendos, quod aut deduci de sententia possunt aut, si permanebunt, magis mihi videntur vota facturi contra rem publicam quam arma laturi.
But I do not think we have to be afraid of those people at all, because they can either be talked out of their ideas, or, if not, it seems more likely to me they'll make wishes than pick up arms against the state.

Literally, a votum is a pledge made to a deity – with the implication that this is done to persuade the god to grant a wish, and from there, the word took on the wider meaning of heartfelt wishes, which one hopes will be granted by divine intervention. Another rather banal example from a letter of Cicero's to one M. Mario:

Nos hic in multitudine et celebritate iudiciorum et novis legibus ita distinemur ut cottidie vota faciamus ne intercaletur, ut quam primum te videre possimus.
I am being held up here with so many and so well-attended trials and with new laws that I am praying daily they won't be inserting days in the calendar [this was occasionally done by the religious authorities!] so that I can visit you as soon as possible.

Presumably Cicero did not really kneel down before his lares daily in the service of this matter, but maybe he did cross his fingers when he glanced at the calendar…


The existing suggestions are probably better, but there is yet another option optare votis with several hits:

stulte, quid haec frustra votis puerilibus optas (Ov.Tr.3.8.11) [Fool! why pray in vain like a child for such things; Loeb translation]

quod votis optastis adest (Verg.A.10.279) [What you have desired in your prayers is now possible; Loeb]

spumantemque dari pecora inter inertia votis optat aprum (Verg.A.4.158) [maybe votis is dative here though]
[prays that amid the timorous herds a foaming boar maybe granted to his vows; Loeb]

However the caveat here is that this since opto a transitive verb probably it should be accompanied by the accusative of the wish itself.


the distinction between fantasy wish and prayerful wish should be highlighted. the wishes given by nymphs and genius spirits (i apologize for the tautology) are realized via the optare verb.

  • That's an interesting distinction. I'd be interested in seeing some examples taken from literature, ancient, medieval, or modern.
    – Figulus
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 21:55

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