essay

noun
es·say | \ˈe-ˌsā; senses 2, 3 & 4 also e-ˈsā \

Definition of essay 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : an analytic or interpretative literary composition usually dealing with its subject from a limited or personal point of view

b : something resembling such a composition a photographic essay

2a : effort, attempt especially : an initial tentative effort

b : the result or product of an attempt

3 : a proof of an unaccepted design for a stamp or piece of paper money

4 obsolete : trial, test

essay

verb
es·say | \e-ˈsā, ə-ˈsā, ˈe-ˌsā \

Definition of essay (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to make an often tentative or experimental effort to perform : try

2 : to put to a test

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from essay

Verb

essayer noun

Synonyms for essay

Synonyms: Noun

attempt, bid, crack, endeavor, fling, go, offer, pass, shot, stab, trial, try, whack, whirl

Synonyms: Verb

assay, attempt, endeavor, seek, strive, try

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Choose the Right Synonym for essay

Verb

attempt, try, endeavor, essay, strive mean to make an effort to accomplish an end. attempt stresses the initiation or beginning of an effort. will attempt to photograph the rare bird try is often close to attempt but may stress effort or experiment made in the hope of testing or proving something. tried to determine which was the better procedure endeavor heightens the implications of exertion and difficulty. endeavored to find crash survivors in the mountains essay implies difficulty but also suggests tentative trying or experimenting. will essay a dramatic role for the first time strive implies great exertion against great difficulty and specifically suggests persistent effort. continues to strive for peace

Examples of essay in a Sentence

Noun

Your assignment is to write a 500-word essay on one of Shakespeare's sonnets. The book is a collection of his previously unpublished essays on a variety of topics.

Verb

There is no hint as to which of the approaches essayed in this book will prove most useful. he had been in gymnastics for some time before he even considered essaying that move
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The only potential good news — as the academic Klinkler pointed out in this essay — is that the harsh dog whistle of Trump’s xenophobia that only his supporters picked up in 2016 is now audible for all to hear. Will Bunch, Philly.com, "Can Trump's slow-motion ethnic cleansing keep whites in U.S. majority? | Will Bunch," 12 July 2018 Here's how Doug McDermott recalled the situation in a Players Tribune essay. Scott Horner, Indianapolis Star, "5 things you might not know about Doug McDermott of the Pacers," 1 July 2018 This list is a mix of short story collections, novels, a book of essays, and a collection of poetry, any and all of which would be welcome additions to your bookshelf. Caroline Rogers, Southern Living, "10 Books by Southern Writers We Bet You Haven’t Read Yet," 29 June 2018 That's the point of an essay Beatriz wrote, which was published by GQ on Thursday. Kasandra Brabaw, refinery29.com, "PSA: Being Bi Doesn't Change Based On Who You're Dating," 22 June 2018 This essay is adapted from EQ Applied: The Real-World Guide to Emotional Intelligence, © 2018, Justin Bariso. Justin Bariso, Time, "There’s a Dark Side to Emotional Intelligence. Here’s How to Protect Yourself," 5 June 2018 This essay is adapted from Angela Garbes' new book, Like a Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy. Angela Garbes, Health.com, "I Had a Miscarriage at 30 and 35—and Each One Felt Wildly Different," 29 May 2018 Topics covered will include fiction sources and how to nurture them, dynamic and strategic dialogue and the genesis and development of a personal essay. Yoshina Okamoto, Anchorage Daily News, "Here’s your Alaska summer 2018 festival guide," 17 May 2018 In a recent essay for the journal Democracy, the Roosevelt Institute fellow Jennifer Harris recommends reimagining international trade as an engine for this rather than as an obstacle to it. Caleb Crain, The New Yorker, "Is Capitalism a Threat to Democracy?," 7 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

But country twang is her guiding principle, and her songs vividly essay failed and burgeoning relationships. Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader, "Whitney Rose enfolds bits of Tex-Mex and 60s pop into her lush, retro-tinged sound," 5 July 2018 Specifically, documentaries essaying one particularly magnetic celebrity personality, or a singularly gripping tale. David Sims, The Atlantic, "What’s Driving Documentaries to Box-Office Success?," 11 July 2018 In 2011, Waller shifted her focus to essay and fiction writing and founded Crooked Door Storytelling, a Fine Arts consulting company that offers story programs, public speaking training and creative writing workshops to students and professionals. Chicago Tribune, chicagotribune.com, "Algren Award runner-up: "Here Is Where the Taxi Driver Set His Wife on Fire" by GKS Waller," 2 June 2018 Few records fully and frankly essay the realistic ups-and-downs of a young man’s fancy as has Khalid Robinson’s American Teen. Philly.com, "Memorial Day fireworks, Sail Philadelphia, Devon Horse Show, and other events in Philadelphia, May 25-June 1," 24 May 2018 Meghan recalled in her Elle essay how her seventh grade English teacher told her to check the box for Caucasian on a mandatory census. Caroline Picard, Good Housekeeping, "What Is Meghan Markle's Relationship With Her Dad, Thomas Markle?," 9 May 2018 Titanic, however, is no soulless junket into techno-glop wizardry but rather a complex and radiant tale that essays both mankind's destructive arrogance and its noble endurance. Thr Staff, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Titanic': THR's 1997 Review," 19 Dec. 2017 That combination is perfectly suited to his Christmas Tree-O project, which sanguinely essays holiday themes—both classic and schmaltzy—with gusto and ardor. Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader, "Drummer Matt Wilson’s Christmas Tree-O deftly walks the line between sincerity and kitsch with its stroll through holiday hits," 8 Dec. 2017 Daria channeled her struggle into a college admissions essay that talks about losing herself in literature to cope with moving from hotel room to hotel room after Sandy. Megan Friedman, Seventeen, "This Incredible Girl Bounced Back From a Hurricane to Get Into 7 Ivy League Schools," 20 Apr. 2015

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

See More

First Known Use of essay

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

Verb

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for essay

Noun

Middle French essai, ultimately from Late Latin exagium act of weighing, from Latin ex- + agere to drive — more at agent

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about essay

Statistics for essay

Last Updated

11 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for essay

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for essay

essay

verb

English Language Learners Definition of essay

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to try to do, perform, or deal with (something)

essay

noun

English Language Learners Definition of essay (Entry 2 of 2)

: a short piece of writing that tells a person's thoughts or opinions about a subject

essay

noun
es·say | \ˈe-ˌsā \

Kids Definition of essay

: a short piece of writing that tells a person's thoughts or opinions about a subject

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on essay

What made you want to look up essay? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

required by fashion, etiquette, or custom

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Great Scrabble Words—A Quiz

  • scrabble-tiles-that-read-scrabble-quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!