Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A short literary composition on a single subject, usually presenting the personal view of the author.
  • n. Something resembling such a composition: a photojournalistic essay.
  • n. A testing or trial of the value or nature of a thing: an essay of the students' capabilities.
  • n. An initial attempt or endeavor, especially a tentative attempt.
  • transitive v. To make an attempt at; try.
  • transitive v. To subject to a test.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A written composition of moderate length exploring a particular issue or subject.
  • n. A test, experiment; an assay.
  • n. An attempt.
  • v. To try.
  • v. To move forth, as into battle.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. An effort made, or exertion of body or mind, for the performance of anything; a trial; attempt.
  • n. A composition treating of any particular subject; -- usually shorter and less methodical than a formal, finished treatise
  • n. An assay. See Assay, n.
  • transitive v. 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.
  • transitive v. To test the value and purity of (metals); to assay. See Assay.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A trial, attempt, or endeavor; an effort made; exertion of body or mind to perform or accomplish anything: as, an essay toward reform; an essay of strength.
  • n. An experimental trial; a test.
  • n. An assay or test of the qualities of a metal. See assay, n.
  • n. In lit., a discursive composition concerned with a particular subject, usually shorter and less methodical and finished than a treatise; a short disquisition: as, an essay on the life and writings of Homer; an essay on fossils; an essay on commerce.
  • n. Synonyms Struggle.
  • n. Treatise, dissertation, disquisition, paper, tract, tractate. See definition of treatise.
  • To make trial of; attempt; exert one's power or faculties upon; put to the test: as, to essay a difficult feat; to essay the courage of a braggart.
  • To try and test the value and purity of, as metals. Now written assay (which see).
  • Synonyms Undertake, Endeavor, etc. See attempt.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. an analytic or interpretive literary composition
  • n. a tentative attempt
  • v. put to the test, as for its quality, or give experimental use to
  • v. make an effort or attempt

Etymologies

French essai, trial, attempt, from Old French, from essayer, to attempt, from Vulgar Latin *exagiāre, to weigh out, from Late Latin exagium, a weighing : Latin ex-, ex- + Latin agere, to drive; see ag- in Indo-European roots. V., from Middle English assaien, from Old French assaer, assaier, variant of essayer.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle French essai. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • At its core were two pieces, the title essay and another, "The Eye Is a Part of the Mind," that offered the most sweeping argument against Greenbergian formalism.

    The Man Who Taught Us to See

  • In his title essay in the recent book, Race, Incarceration, and American Values, Professor Loury sounds the alarm on some of the same concerns the Children's Defense Fund has been raising when we talk about the pipeline to prison crisis.

    Marian Wright Edelman: A Look at Race, Incarceration, and American Values

  • Emerson recognized this connection between nature and a certain elevation of mind, and he explains it in the title essay from "Nature":

    John Wihbey: After Copenhagen Chaos, A Bit of Emerson for the Soul

  • The title essay is written as a legal brief concerning the lawsuit of Wile E.

    2009 October 04 « Exile on Ninth Street

  • As it happens, the title essay of the book is Mr. Rybczynski's attempt to fill out with fact the "fairy tales" he heard time and again about his parents 'fathers, one a prosperous banker and patriarch in interwar Warsaw, the other a philosopher and physicist in southeastern Poland who, in time, would withdraw from active life because of his troubled involvement with a married woman.

    At Home in a New World

  • And I completely agree with the title essay - six-year-olds definitely shouldn't be dressed as sexily as they are these days.

    Archive 2008-12-01

  • And the title essay picks up this theme: "Let the dedicated activist never overshadow the dedicated servant of literature — the matchless storyteller."

    Books: Sontag's Last Stands

  • The title essay, on the other hand, is still up, and is also good, if lobsters are indeed something you feel like considering.

    Gerry Canavan

  • "The Peculiarities of the English" runs to fifty-seven printed pages, while in The Poverty of Theory the title essay alone is 206 pages long: it would have been twice as effective at one quarter the length.

    The Case of E.P. Thompson

  • In the title essay of the same volume where Thompson's "open letter" to Kolakowski is most available (The Poverty of Theory), Thompson demolishes the system-mongering of then-fashionable Louis Althusser.

    The Case of E.P. Thompson

Comments

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  • Sounds like the letters S A.

    October 28, 2009

  • In stamp collecting, this term refers to the artwork of a proposed design for a postage stamp. Some essays are rendered photographically; others are drawn or painted. One design is chosen out of many submissions to become the essay for the accepted design.

    August 25, 2008