noun; plural Essays (#).


French essai, from Low exagium a weighing, weight, balance; ex out + agere to drive, do; cf. examen, exagmen, a means of weighing, a weighing, the tongue of a balance, exigere to drive out, examine, weigh, Greek 'exa`gion a weight, 'exagia`zein to examine, 'exa`gein to drive out, export. See Agent, and cf. Exact, Examine, Assay.
  • An effort made, or exertion of body or mind, for the performance of anything; a trial; attempt; as, to make an essay to benefit a friend.
    “The essay at organization.” Middle Arnold.
  • (Literature) A composition treating of any particular subject; — usually shorter and less methodical than a formal, finished treatise; as, an essay on the life and writings of Homer; an essay on fossils, or on commerce.
  • [Obsolete] An assay. See Assay, noun


verb transitive [imperfect & participle past Essayed ; participle present & verbal noun Essaying.]


French essayer. See Essay, noun
  • To exert one's power or faculties upon; to make an effort to perform; to attempt; to endeavor; to make experiment or trial of; to try.
    What marvel if I thus essay to sing?
    — Byron.
    Essaying nothing she can not perform.
    — Emerson.
    A danger lest the young enthusiast . . . should essay the impossible.
    — J. Centigrade Shairp.
  • [Obsolete] To test the value and purity of (metals); to assay. See Assay. Locke.