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essay

[n. es-ey for 1, 2; es-ey, e-sey for 3–5; v. e-sey] /n. ˈɛs eɪ for 1, 2; ˈɛs eɪ, ɛˈseɪ for 3–5; v. ɛˈseɪ/
noun
1.
a short literary composition on a particular theme or subject, usually in prose and generally analytic, speculative, or interpretative.
2.
anything resembling such a composition:
a picture essay.
3.
an effort to perform or accomplish something; attempt.
4.
Philately. a design for a proposed stamp differing in any way from the design of the stamp as issued.
5.
Obsolete. a tentative effort; trial; assay.
verb (used with object)
6.
to try; attempt.
7.
to put to the test; make trial of.
Origin
1475-1485
1475-85; < Middle French essayer, cognate with Anglo-French assayer to assay < Late Latin exagium a weighing, equivalent to *exag(ere), for Latin exigere to examine, test, literally, to drive out (see exact) + -ium -ium
Related forms
essayer, noun
preessay, verb (used without object)
unessayed, adjective
well-essayed, adjective
Can be confused
assay, essay.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for essay
  • Perhaps the true meaning of the word essay-an attempt-gives a clue.
  • It is my hope that this essay will initiate such a conversation.
  • Readers may be interested in a more sober minded essay on this topic.
  • I'm currently finishing up an expository essay on tattoos.
  • He gives assignment sheets with essay questions and words to look up.
  • These were both essay questions, which some people don't do well on.
  • The last paragraph in this essay is interesting in view of subsequent history.
  • He has since written a number of books and essays in the field of true murder as well as in allied fields.
  • This essay is very silly.
  • I'll have them begin a rough draft of an essay in class.
British Dictionary definitions for essay

essay

noun (ˈɛseɪ; for senses 2, 3 also) (ɛˈseɪ)
1.
a short literary composition dealing with a subject analytically or speculatively
2.
an attempt or endeavour; effort
3.
a test or trial
verb (transitive) (ɛˈseɪ)
4.
to attempt or endeavour; try
5.
to test or try out
Word Origin
C15: from Old French essaier to attempt, from essai an attempt, from Late Latin exagium a weighing, from Latin agere to do, compel, influenced by exigere to investigate
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for essay
n.

1590s, "short non-fiction literary composition" (first attested in writings of Francis Bacon, probably in imitation of Montaigne), from Middle French essai "trial, attempt, essay," from Late Latin exagium "a weighing, weight," from Latin exigere "test," from ex- "out" (see ex-) + agere (see act) apparently meaning here "to weigh." The suggestion is of unpolished writing.

v.

"to put to proof, test the mettle of," late 15c., from Middle French essaier, from essai (see essay (n.)). This sense has mostly gone with the divergent spelling assay. Meaning "to attempt" is from 1640s. Related: Essayed; essaying.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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essay in Culture

essay definition


A short piece of writing on one subject, usually presenting the author's own views. Michel de Montaigne, Francis Bacon, and Ralph Waldo Emerson are celebrated for their essays.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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