essay

[noun es-ey for 1, 2; es-ey, e-sey for 3–5; verb e-sey]
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)
  1. to try; attempt.
  2. 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 formses·say·er, nounpre·es·say, verb (used without object)un·es·sayed, adjectivewell-es·sayed, adjective
Can be confusedassay essay
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018


Examples from the Web for essaying

Historical Examples of essaying

  • Terrible was their strength and swiftness; and they were essaying to scale heaven and attack the gods.

  • 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


British Dictionary definitions for essaying

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 (ɛˈseɪ) (tr)
  1. to attempt or endeavour; try
  2. to test or try out

Word Origin for essay

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

Word Origin and History for essaying

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.

essay

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

essaying in Culture

essay

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

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