[ 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 structure on a particular theme or topic, usually in prose and generally speaking analytic, speculative, or interpretative.

such a thing resembling such a composition: an image essay.

an endeavor to perform or achieve one thing; effort.

Philately. a design for a proposed stamp differing at all from the design associated with stamp as granted.

Obsolete. a tentative work; test; assay.

verb (used with object)

to decide to try; effort.

to put to the test; make test of.



dissertation, treatise, manuscript, research, paper, thesis, article, piece, conversation, explication, theme, exposition, disquisition, tract, composition, exertion, shot, toil, undertaking, effort

Nearby words

  1. esrc,
  2. esro,
  3. esrog,
  4. ess,
  5. essaouira,
  6. essay concern,
  7. essayist,
  8. essayistic,
  9. esse,
  10. esse quam videri

Origin of essay

1475–85; assay exact) + -ium -ium

Related formses·say·er, nounpre·es·say, verb (used without item)un·es·sayed, adjectivewell-es·sayed, adjective

Can be confusedassay essay

Dictionary.com UnabridgedBased regarding the Random home Unabridged Dictionary, © Random home, Inc. 2019

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  • The main topic of the lunar librations ended up being treated by Lagrange with great originality in an essay crowned by the Paris Lagrange.

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British Dictionary definitions for essay


noun (ˈɛseɪ, for senses 2, 3 additionally ɛˈseɪ)

a brief literary composition coping with a topic analytically or speculatively

an attempt or endeavour; effort

a test or test

verb (ɛˈseɪ) (tr)

to attempt or endeavour; try

to try or try

Word Origin for essay

C15: from Old French essaier to attempt, from essai an endeavor, from belated Latin exagium a weighing, from Latin agere to complete, compel, impacted by exigere to analyze

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 essay (1 of 2)



1590s, «short non-fiction literary composition» (first attested in writings of Francis Bacon, probably in replica of Montaigne), from Middle French essai «trial, effort, essay,» from belated Latin exagium «a weighing, weight,» from Latin exigere «test,» from ex- «out» (see ex-) + agere (see work) evidently meaning here «to weigh.» The recommendation is of unpolished writing.

Term Origin and History for essay (1 of 2)



«to place to evidence, test the mettle of,» late 15c., from center French essaier, from essai (see essay (letter.)). This sense has mostly gone utilizing the divergent spelling assay. Meaning «to attempt» is from 1640s. Associated: Essayed; essaying.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Customs definitions for essay


A brief piece of writing on a single subject, frequently presenting mcdougal's very own views. Michel de Montaigne, Francis Bacon (see also Bacon), and Ralph Waldo Emerson are celebrated due to their essays.

The latest Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing business. Posted by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Business. All rights reserved.

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