1 of 2


es·​say ˈe-ˌsā How to pronounce essay (audio)
senses 2, 3 & 4 also
e-ˈsā How to pronounce essay (audio)
: an analytic or interpretative literary composition usually dealing with its subject from a limited or personal point of view
: something resembling such a composition
a photographic essay
: effort, attempt
especially : an initial tentative effort
: the result or product of an attempt
: a proof of an unaccepted design for a stamp or piece of paper money
obsolete : trial, test


2 of 2


es·​say e-ˈsā How to pronounce essay (audio)
ˈe-ˌsā How to pronounce essay (audio)
essayed; essaying; essays

transitive verb

: to make an often tentative or experimental effort to perform : try
: to put to a test
essayer noun
Choose the Right Synonym for essay

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 The book is a collection of his previously unpublished essays on a variety of topics.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
Recent Examples on the Web
When a potential juror skipped court to visit the Dominican Republic last year, Glanville ordered them to write a 30-page essay in APA style, with primary and secondary sources. Herb Scribner, Washington Post, 18 Apr. 2024 Berliner's essay also angered many of his colleagues and exposed Maher, who started as NPR's CEO in March, to a string of attacks from conservatives over her past social media posts. Emily Deletter, USA TODAY, 17 Apr. 2024 In his essay, written for the online Free Press site, Berliner said NPR is dominated by liberals and no longer has an open-minded spirit. David Bauder, Quartz, 17 Apr. 2024 The resulting photo essays are informed by collaboration with their participants, creating searing portraits that reflect care and intimacy. Lynn Nottage, TIME, 17 Apr. 2024 That dazzling self-possession is an aspect of her œuvre, which includes plays, essays, memoir, and fiction. The New Yorker, 12 Apr. 2024 As deputy to several Opinion editors, Brenneman has been a guiding light of the department, drawing on a wealth of contacts to commission great essays on countless topics from writers around the country. Los Angeles Times, 10 Apr. 2024 In recent years, my work primarily consists of personal essays, poetry, and a memoir, so Yaya is a continuation of that trend. Bridgette Bartlett Royall, Essence, 10 Apr. 2024 Wirth’s essay built on a methodology first conceived by Spectrum contributing editor Robert N. Charette, who in the early 1990s adapted the Toyota Production System for software development. IEEE Spectrum, 7 Apr. 2024
The series is driven by a powerhouse ensemble cast with Mohit Raina essaying the role of the freelancer, Anupam Kher as the analyst Dr. Khan, Kashmira Pardeshi as Aliya and other actors portraying unique characters. Naman Ramachandran, Variety, 6 Aug. 2023 Where do essay writing companies find their professional essay writers? Sponsored Content, The Mercury News, 18 Mar. 2024 Since then, Martindale has essayed a series of increasingly large projects across a variety of genres, including Paris, je t'aime (2006), Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007), August: Osage County (2013), and The Hollars (2016). Declan Gallagher,, 20 Oct. 2023 The actor began his career in London theater in the late '70s, appearing in Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet, before moving into film, essaying memorable roles in Mike Leigh's Meantime (1983) and as Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy (1986). Declan Gallagher,, 13 July 2023 But Gilmore began her career writing about art, and Slow Food, Fast Cars (out from Phaidon on December 6) marries a number of genres, from cookbook to essay collection to exhibition catalog and beyond. Leah Bhabha, Vogue, 1 Dec. 2023 Anil Kapoor essays the role of a father while Ranbir Kapoor is the son in the film that explores a twisted side of father-son bond. Sweta Kaushal, Forbes, 30 Nov. 2023 Tisch Blodgett even wrote her college admissions essay about bonding through the sport with three generations of women in her family. Emma Hinchliffe, Fortune, 8 Nov. 2023 Carta declined to comment on the litigation and essay for this story. Jessica Mathews, Fortune, 16 Oct. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'essay.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



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

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

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

Dictionary Entries Near essay

Cite this Entry

“Essay.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 verb
es·​say e-ˈsā How to pronounce essay (audio) ˈes-ˌā How to pronounce essay (audio)
: attempt entry 1 sense 1, try
again essayed to ride on the camel


2 of 2 noun
es·​say ˈes-ˌā How to pronounce essay (audio)
in sense 1 also
e-ˈsā How to pronounce essay (audio)
: attempt entry 2 sense 1, try
especially : an uncertain or hesitant effort
: a usually short written work giving a personal view or opinion on a subject

More from Merriam-Webster on essay

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