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 The book is a collection of his previously unpublished essays on a variety of topics.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

Pop singer Jojo wrote a personal essay for Billboard in January about her decision to re-record her first two albums after her former record label, which owned the master licensing rights to the music, removed the songs from streaming services. Doha Madani, NBC News, "Taylor Swift's beef with Scooter Braun: Everything you need to know," 2 July 2019 All-Star point guard Kemba Walker penned a thank-you letter to the Charlotte Hornets organization and owner Michael Jordan in a Players' Tribune essay published Monday. Kaelen Jones,, "Kemba Walker Thanks Hornets, Michael Jordan: 'I Owe Charlotte Everything'," 1 July 2019 In a 1960 essay for National Review, Didion eviscerated typical European criticisms of America. Mary Spencer, National Review, "What Joan Didion Saw," 29 June 2019 Hansen, a Missouri native who joined LIFE in 1942, meanwhile, publicized women’s contributions to the war effort by producing a photo essay on WAAC recruits training for deployment. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian, "‘Life’ Magazine’s Earliest Women Photojournalists Step Into Spotlight," 28 June 2019 There’s a beautiful essay by Zadie Smith that seeks to parse the difference between pleasure and joy, that (in my opinion at least) starts to give voice to the profundity of this. Nicole Cliffe, SELF, "Alanis Morissette on Pregnancy at 45, Childbirth, Postpartum Depression, and #MeToo," 26 June 2019 Murat Yetkin, a political analyst, wrote in a post-election essay. Washington Post, "By pushing for revote in Istanbul, Erdogan gambled — and lost," 25 June 2019 Opening up about the multitude of ways that having children has transformed her life, the 31-year-old supermodel is pulling back the curtains on her battle with postpartum depression in a new essay. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "Supermodel Behati Prinsloo Opens Up About Suffering from Postpartum Depression," 20 June 2019 On Assignment Projects PHOTOGRAPHY Create a photo essay depicting Bali’s spectacular biodiversity. National Geographic, "Bali High School Expedition," 17 June 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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Dictionary Entries near essay






essay examination


Statistics for essay

Last Updated

5 Jul 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

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