assay

verb
as·say | \ a-ˈsā , ˈa-ˌsā \
assayed; assaying; assays

Definition of assay 

(Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to analyze (something, such as an ore) for one or more specific components assayed the gold to determine its purity

b : to judge the worth of : estimate assay the results of the new changes

2 : try, attempt Again Israel assayed to reply, but could not. —Herman Melville

intransitive verb

: to prove up in an assay

assay

noun
as·say | \ ˈa-ˌsā , a-ˈsā \

Definition of assay (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : examination and determination as to characteristics (such as weight, measure, or quality)

2 : analysis (as of an ore or drug) to determine the presence, absence, or quantity of one or more components also : a test used in this analysis

3 : a substance to be assayed also : the tabulated result of assaying

4 archaic : trial, attempt

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Other words from assay

Verb

assayer noun

Did You Know?

Noun

Usage experts warn against confusing the verbs "assay" and "essay." Some confusion shouldn't be surprising, since the two words look alike and derive from the same root, the Middle French word essai, meaning "test" or "effort" (a root that in turn comes from Late Latin exagium, meaning "act of weighing"). At one time, the two terms were synonyms, sharing the meaning "try" or "attempt," but many modern usage commentators recommend that you differentiate the two words, using "essay" when you mean "to try or attempt" (as in "he will essay a dramatic role for the first time") and "assay" to mean "to test or evaluate" (as in "the blood was assayed to detect the presence of the antibody").

Examples of assay in a Sentence

Verb

They assayed the gold to determine its purity. the company assayed a sample of the rock to see if it contained gold in quantities worth mining

Noun

a metallurgist did an assay on the metal and determined it contained nickel the poem about a frustrated man's last assay at greatness
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

At the Pantages, the role is assayed by Adrianna Hicks, an ensemble player in the Broadway revival who hasn’t quite made the leap to headliner. Charles Mcnulty, latimes.com, "'The Color Purple' national tour turns down the wattage — and burns a little less brightly," 30 May 2018 That was followed by another sweaty hour in which Hinterhäuser assayed all six of Ustvolskaya’s piano sonatas, written between 1947 and 1988, with no break between them. Mark Swed, latimes.com, "This year's Ojai Music Festival was bright, and dark, and very very hot," 12 June 2018 David Lord and a team at Sandia National Laboratories have been working on finding and developing methods for analyzing oils from different fields to quickly assay their chemical constituents. Alexis C. Madrigal, The Atlantic, "The Great Crude-Oil Fireball Test," 5 Feb. 2018 One challenge was to precisely assay the uranium isotopes, which could shed light on the material's source; on at least one measurement, COE scientists came out tops. Richard Stone, Science | AAAS, "U.S.-China mission rushes bomb-grade nuclear fuel out of Africa," 31 Aug. 2017 One challenge was to precisely assay the uranium isotopes, which could shed light on the material's source Richard Stone, Science | AAAS, "U.S.-China mission rushes bomb-grade nuclear fuel out of Africa," 31 Aug. 2017 Louis has spent the last three years explaining the allure of Marine Le Pen — just recently in this publication — while Vance spent the run-up to the 2016 election assaying the appeal of Donald J. Trump. Jennifer Senior, New York Times, "‘The End of Eddy’ Captures a Savage Childhood and a Global Movement," 17 May 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Most assays estimate the number of protein-altering mutations in a tumor by sequencing a limited number of genes from its DNA; that tally likely reflects the density of mutant protein fragments, known as neoantigens, on the surface of cancer cells. Ken Garber, Science | AAAS, "Mutation-counting blood test could predict if cutting-edge immunotherapies can beat a cancer," 27 June 2018 Genome sequencing picked up 38 percent and 87 percent, while the 507-gene assay found 51 percent of early-stage cancers and 89 percent of late-stage ones. Sharon Begley, STAT, "Grail’s cancer blood test shows ‘proof of principle,’ but challenges remain," 2 June 2018 Other gene assays exist, but this one is the most widely used in the United States. Denise Grady, New York Times, "Good News for Women With Breast Cancer: Many Don’t Need Chemo," 3 June 2018 It was supposed to do general chemistry assays and blood cell counts, etc. Recode Staff, Recode, "Full transcript: WSJ investigative journalist John Carreyrou on Recode Decode," 3 June 2018 The show assays two very different types of female power, and does so with both edge and heart. Daniel D'addario, Time, "Best TV Shows of 2018 So Far," 30 May 2018 Some of this information is publicly available, especially in Canada, where a service called CrudeMonitor provides detailed chemicals assays of different oil streams. Alexis C. Madrigal, The Atlantic, "The Great Crude-Oil Fireball Test," 5 Feb. 2018 To address this question, Chowdhury and his colleagues are developing a simple assay that responders could deploy in the field with limited expertise or equipment. Ann Griswold, Scientific American, "Detecting Radiation Exposure with a Blood Test," 1 June 2017 In the case of 23andMe’s cancer assay, the three mutations measured are most common in people of Ashkenazi, or Eastern European Jewish descent. Thomas M. Burton, WSJ, "FDA Opens Way for You to Test for Cancer Risk by Mail," 9 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'assay.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of assay

Verb

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 2

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

History and Etymology for assay

Verb

see assay entry 2

Noun

Middle English, from Anglo-French assai, essai — more at essay entry 1

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Statistics for assay

Last Updated

5 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for assay

The first known use of assay was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for assay

assay

verb

English Language Learners Definition of assay

: to test something (such as a metal or drug) to find out what it contains

assay

noun
as·say | \ ˈas-ˌā , a-ˈsā \

Medical Definition of assay 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : examination and determination as to characteristics (as weight, measure, or quality)

2 : analysis (as of a drug) to determine the presence, absence, or quantity of one or more components — compare bioassay

3 : a substance to be assayed also : the tabulated result of assaying

as·say | \ a-ˈsā , ˈas-ˌā \

Medical Definition of assay (Entry 2 of 2)

: to analyze (an impure substance or mixture) for one or more specific components the sample was assayed for drug content

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