Definition of essay in English:



  • 1A short piece of writing on a particular subject.

    • ‘The editors encouraged all forms of literary submissions from poetry and essays to short stories and serialized novels.’
    • ‘Quentin Williams makes this point in a perceptive essay on painting and photography.’
    • ‘I think I did a reasonable science essay on house design.’
    • ‘I went on to publish essays, short stories, poetry, and political commentaries.’
    • ‘Apart from the novels, Sundara Ramaswamy has written several short stories and essays on literary criticism.’
    • ‘I won an award for a poem, and consistently scored really well for essays, short stories and other English stuff in high school.’
    • ‘Both his poetry from 1926 on and his essays in literary criticism attest to his spiritual independence.’
    • ‘Each section centers around a theme and is introduced with a short essay by one of the editors.’
    • ‘Previously, he had published travel essays and short stories, but he turned to writing novels.’
    • ‘In addition, he has published several books of essays, poems and photographs.’
    • ‘This juxtaposition is a characteristic feature of George Eliot's essays and reviews.’
    • ‘He has published essays, reviews and short stories in a number of journals and anthologies and is currently at work on a novel.’
    • ‘He began writing plays, essays, short stories and then film scripts declaring that he planned to devote his life to art as a force for social change.’
    • ‘Although he lacked a good radio voice, he excelled at writing short but incisive essays that captured a radio audience unused to such quality in a news broadcast.’
    • ‘Many of the essays are just too short to really get into the subject.’
    • ‘In writing essays, I only follow one rule, which is that all the information is independently verifiable.’
    • ‘For example, my first published piece was a nonfiction essay in MidAmerican Review.’
    • ‘However, he continued to write poems, short stories, essays, and novels when he found time.’
    • ‘That might be the inevitable price of writing short essays.’
    • ‘He's since written many novels, and essays, and short stories.’
    • ‘During the years that followed, Hurston wrote novels, essays, articles, and plays.’
    article, piece of writing, composition, study, paper, dissertation, assignment, thesis, discourse, treatise, text, tract, disquisition, monograph
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  • 2formal An attempt or effort.

    ‘a misjudged essay’
    • ‘Tourism at its best is an attempt, an essay, and not all essays are trivial.’
    attempt, effort, endeavour, try, venture, trial, experiment, undertaking
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    1. 2.1A trial design of a postage stamp yet to be accepted.
      • ‘He had a beautiful collection of essays and proofs, obtained largely from the designers and engravers with whom he was intimately acquainted.’
      • ‘The Prince Consort essay shown here can be regarded as the forerunner of later Victorian stamps.’


  • Attempt or try.

    ‘essay a smile’
    • ‘The newsreader forced a glassy smile and essayed a limp defence.’
    • ‘I have never before essayed a non-fictional character.’
    • ‘Shortly thereafter, he essayed a hair transplant, which he covered with a bandanna to make sure it was noted.’
    • ‘Nevin scampered for space and from 30 metres essayed a left-footed shot over the bar.’
    • ‘For any sportsperson, the point of contact in essaying a stroke is the moment of joy.’
    • ‘The Socialist Party alone seems to be essaying a relatively sophisticated campaign, and taking the trouble to tell voters who its candidates are.’
    • ‘After a clutch of films in which he has essayed powerful characters with a negative side, Irfan was pleasantly surprised some time last year when a London-based producer approached him with the offer of a lead role in a film.’
    • ‘And, the first role that he played was that of a 74-year-old, the oldest character he's ever essayed in his career.’
    • ‘Subsequently, Beckham essayed a long, high shot but this one, in contrast to the one that made it into the net, was comfortably caught by Jones.’
    • ‘Rajkumar essayed the role of many a mythological character as well as historical figures.’
    • ‘The protagonist in ‘The Shield’ is Vic Mackey, who is a hard-bitten, tough street cop brilliant essayed by Michael Chiklis.’
    • ‘George Reid, the Presiding Officer, essayed a bit of Gaelic, then introduced the Lewis psalm-singers.’
    • ‘Some months ago, the Government essayed a crackdown on youths staying late at internet cafes.’
    • ‘The chief minister's younger son, Karan Pratap Singh, deftly essayed by Rohit Roy, is both feared and adored by his mother who sees him as both a liability and as her political heir.’
    • ‘Born in December 1924, Ezekiel essayed many roles with energy and grace: poet, editor, art critic, playwright, teacher, and literary organiser.’
    attempt, make an attempt at, try, strive, aim, venture, endeavour, seek, set out, do one's best, do all one can, do one's utmost, make an effort, make every effort, spare no effort, give one's all, take it on oneself
    have a go at, undertake, embark on, try one's hand at, try out, take on
    give it a whirl, give it one's best shot, go all out, pull out all the stops, bend over backwards, knock oneself out, bust a gut, break one's neck, move heaven and earth, have a crack at, have a shot at, have a stab at
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Late 15th century (as a verb in the sense test the quality of): alteration of assay, by association with Old French essayer, based on late Latin exagium weighing from the base of exigere ascertain, weigh; the noun (late 16th century) is from Old French essai trial.