es·​say | \ ˈe-ˌsā How to pronounce essay (audio) ; senses 2, 3 & 4 also e-ˈsā How to pronounce essay (audio) \

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


es·​say | \ e-ˈsā How to pronounce essay (audio) , ə-ˈsā, ˈe-ˌsā How to pronounce essay (audio) \

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

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Other Words from essay


essayer noun

Synonyms for essay

Synonyms: Noun

article, composition, paper, theme

Synonyms: Verb

assay, attempt, endeavor, seek, strive, try

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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


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 The book is a collection of his previously unpublished essays on a variety of topics.


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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Work as a team and use your new photography skills to create a photo-essay that tells the story of your time living in the community. National Geographic, "Costa Rica Middle School Expedition," 10 Sep. 2019 The essays quickly went viral, and social media users everywhere have opened up about their own relationships with their children and cutting down their work schedules. Char Adams,, "Internet Reacts to Working Parents' 'Heartbreaking' Plea to Parents After Son's Sudden Death," 10 Sep. 2019 Schools may apply by submitting an online form — which asks for the size and state of their bus fleets, in addition to an essay detailing their reasons for wanting to participate. Washington Post, "Electric school buses are coming to Virginia," 9 Sep. 2019 Today, The Chronicle is debuting two visual essays that capture the essence of the Bay Area. Jen Thomas,, "Bay Briefing: Inside the Ghost Ship trial verdict," 6 Sep. 2019 The winning essay will be published on N.c., The Economist, "Writing to right climate change," 5 Aug. 2019 Every entry is accompanied by an essay that serves as a history lesson, outlining the story of why it was constructed and what’s happened to it since. Liz Stinson, Curbed, "Online database chronicles forgotten 20th-century buildings and monuments," 5 Aug. 2019 Rainy also provided the wording for an essay written by Chelsea that explains her reasons for wanting to be princess. Julie Gallant, Ramona Sentinel, "Six-year-old crowned Little Miss Okla Chahta Princess," 2 Aug. 2019 One of the signatories, Yale Holocaust historian Timothy Snyder, published an essay on the debate at on July 12. Michael Hiltzik,, "The U.S. Holocaust Museum is wrong to deny that Trump’s racism resembles Nazism," 15 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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, "Meghan Markle and Her Dad: A Timeline of Their Rocky Relationship," 6 Mar. 2019 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, "Meghan Markle and Her Dad: A Timeline of Their Rocky Relationship," 6 Mar. 2019 From Beyoncé's overarching creative direction, to Tyler Mitchell (at 23-years old, the publication's first-ever black cover photographer), to the candid as told to essay, everything came together to solidify its place in history. Emily Wang, Glamour, "Beyoncé Wears This Highlighter, and No Higher Endorsement Exists," 7 Aug. 2018 Like 48 voices all essaying the song stylings of the just-out-of-adolescence version of the figure now grandly known as His Lordship, or, to his friends, Sir Andrew, or, in the cheaper seats, plain old Andrew Lloyd Webber. Chris Jones,, "'Jesus Christ Superstar' means 'gig theater' is coming to the Lyric Opera," 18 Apr. 2018 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,, "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., "Memorial Day fireworks, Sail Philadelphia, Devon Horse Show, and other events in Philadelphia, May 25-June 1," 24 May 2018

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.

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First Known Use of essay


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for essay


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

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Statistics for essay

Last Updated

13 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for essay

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

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More Definitions for essay



English Language Learners Definition of essay

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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



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

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


es·​say | \ ˈe-ˌsā How to pronounce essay (audio) \

Kids Definition of essay

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on essay

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with essay

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for essay

Spanish Central: Translation of essay

Nglish: Translation of essay for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of essay for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about essay

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).


formidable, illustrious, or eminent

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