Try Our Apps


Avoid these words. Seriously.


[noun es-ey for 1, 2; es-ey, e-sey for 3–5; verb e-sey] /noun ˈɛs eɪ for 1, 2; ˈɛs eɪ, ɛˈseɪ for 3–5; verb ɛˈseɪ/
a short literary composition on a particular theme or subject, usually in prose and generally analytic, speculative, or interpretative.
anything resembling such a composition:
a picture essay.
an effort to perform or accomplish something; attempt.
Philately. a design for a proposed stamp differing in any way from the design of the stamp as issued.
Obsolete. a tentative effort; trial; assay.
verb (used with object)
to try; attempt.
to put to the test; make trial of.
Origin of essay
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. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
Cite This Source
Examples from the Web for essaying
Historical Examples
  • Terrible was their strength and swiftness; and they were essaying to scale heaven and attack the gods.

    Symposium Plato
  • For Miss Upton's escort had jumped out and she was essaying to leave the car.

    In Apple-Blossom Time

    Clara Louise Burnham
  • "Time's up, sir," shouted the guard, essaying to close the door.

  • essaying a diversion, he addressed the girl in rapid Spanish.

    Dust of the Desert Robert Welles Ritchie
  • The priest, essaying his unctuous voice, tried to set things right.

    Dust of New York Konrad Bercovici
  • The American, essaying a shot, remarked that he had killed a bug with his cue.

    The American Language Henry L. Mencken
  • She wrote incessantly, on all things, essaying every style, every subject.

    Women of Modern France (Illustrated) Hugo Paul Thieme (1870-1940)
  • “But first have bite and sup,” cried Master Peasegood, essaying to rise.

    Sweet Mace George Manville Fenn
  • The Darwinian school will reply that they were hesitating, essaying, experimenting.

    More Hunting Wasps J. Henri Fabre
  • Then he did venture to come into the room, essaying a general bow and smile.

    Stories That End Well

    Octave Thanet
British Dictionary definitions for essaying


noun (ˈɛseɪ; for senses 2, 3 also) (ɛˈseɪ)
a short literary composition dealing with a subject analytically or speculatively
an attempt or endeavour; effort
a test or trial
verb (transitive) (ɛˈseɪ)
to attempt or endeavour; try
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
Cite This Source
Word Origin and History for essaying



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.



"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
Cite This Source
essaying 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 New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Nearby words for essaying

Word Value for essaying

Scrabble Words With Friends