Definition of essay in English:


Syllabification: es·say


Pronunciation: /ˈesā
  • 2 formal An attempt or effort: a misjudged essay
    More example sentences
    • 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.
    More example sentences
    • 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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a small amount; a little