Definition of essay in English:


Syllabification: es·say


Pronunciation: /ˈesā
1A short piece of writing on a particular subject.
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  • Apart from the novels, Sundara Ramaswamy has written several short stories and essays on literary criticism.
  • That might be the inevitable price of writing short essays.
  • He began writing plays, essays, short stories and then film scripts declaring that he planned to devote his life to art as a force for social change.
2 formal An attempt or effort: a misjudged essay
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  • Tourism at its best is an attempt, an essay, and not all essays are trivial.
attempt, effort, endeavor, try, venture, trial, experiment, undertaking
2.1A trial design of a postage stamp yet to be accepted.
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  • He had a beautiful collection of essays and proofs, obtained largely from the designers and engravers with whom he was intimately acquainted.
  • The Prince Consort essay shown here can be regarded as the forerunner of later Victorian stamps.


Pronunciation: /eˈsā
[with object] formal Back to top  
Attempt or try: essay a smile
More example sentences
  • The newsreader forced a glassy smile and essayed a limp defence.
  • The Socialist Party alone seems to be essaying a relatively sophisticated campaign, and taking the trouble to tell voters who its candidates are.
  • For any sportsperson, the point of contact in essaying a stroke is the moment of joy.


late 15th century (as a verb in the sense 'test the quality of'): alteration of assay, by association with Old French essayer, based on late Latin exagium 'weighing', from the base of exigere 'ascertain, weigh'; the noun (late 16th century) is from Old French essai 'trial'.

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