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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle French essai.



essay (plural essays)

  1. A written composition of moderate length exploring a particular issue or subject.
    • 2013 January 1, Katie L. Burke, “Ecological Dependency”, in American Scientist[1], volume 101, number 1, page 64:
      In his first book since the 2008 essay collection Natural Acts: A Sidelong View of Science and Nature, David Quammen looks at the natural world from yet another angle: the search for the next human pandemic, what epidemiologists call “the next big one.”
  2. (obsolete) A test, experiment; an assay.
  3. (now rare) An attempt.
    • 1988, James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, Oxford 2003, p. 455:
      This was Lee's first essay in the kind of offensive-defensive strategy that was to become his hallmark.
Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle French essayer.



essay (third-person singular simple present essays, present participle essaying, simple past and past participle essayed)

  1. (dated, transitive) To try.
    • 1900, Charles W. Chesnutt, The House Behind the Cedars, Chapter II,
      He retraced his steps to the front gate, which he essayed to open.
  2. (intransitive) To move forth, as into battle.