Dictionary > Essay


Origin: f. Essai, fr. L. Exagium a weighing, weight, balance; ex out – agere to drive, do; cf. Examen, exagmen, a means of weighing, a weighing, the tongue of a balance, exigere to drive out, examine, weigh, gr. ‘exagion a weight, ‘exagiazein to examine, ‘exagein to drive out, export. See agent, and cf. Exact, Examine, assay.
1. An effort made, or exertion of body or mind, for the performance of anything; a trial; attempt; as, to make an essay to benefit a friend. The essay at organization.
2. A composition treating of any particular subject; usually shorter and less methodical than a formal, finished treatise; as, an essay on the life and writings of Homer; an essay on fossils, or on commerce.
3. An assay. See assay.
Synonym: attempt, trial, endeavor, effort, tract, treatise, dissertation, disquisition.
1. To exert one’s power or faculties upon; to make an effort to perform; to attempt; to endeavor; to make experiment or trial of; to try. What marvel if i thus essay to sing? (Byron) Essaying nothing she can not perform. (Emerson) A danger lest the young enthusiast . . . Should essay the impossible. (j. C. Shairp)
2. To test the value and purity of (metals); to assay. See assay.
Origin: f. Essayer. See essay.

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