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Inherited from Middle French, from Old French essai, from Late Latin exagium (weighing), hence English assay (compare also Spanish ensayo), from Latin exigō; the original sense of "trial" (if the gold is good) drifted towards a general meaning of "attempt". The literary meaning is given by Michel de Montaigne's masterpiece.


  • IPA(key): /e.sɛ/, /ɛ.sɛ/
  • (file)


essai m (plural essais)

  1. try, trial
    Il a gagné après plusieurs essais.He won after numerous tries.
    Synonym: tentative
  2. assay
  3. (rugby) try
    Elle a marqué son deuxième essai du match.She's scored her second try of the match.
  4. essay, composition of moderate length exploring a particular issue or subject
    Un essai est un livre pour faire des livres; il ne peut passer pour bon qu'en raison du nombre de fétus d'ouvrages qu'il renferme. (Chateaubr., Essai Révol., t. 2, 1797)

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Old French[edit]


From Late Latin exagium, from Latin exigō.


essai oblique singularm (oblique plural essais, nominative singular essais, nominative plural essai)

  1. trial (task of considerable difficulty)

Related terms[edit]


  • Anglo Norman: assai
    • English: assay
  • Middle French: essai