Essay Es"say, n.; pl. {Essays}. [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. 'exa`gion a weight, 'exagia`zein to examine, 'exa`gein 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.'' --M. Arnold. [1913 Webster]

2. (Lit.) 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. [1913 Webster]

3. An assay. See {Assay}, n. [Obs.]

Syn: Attempt; trial; endeavor; effort; tract; treatise; dissertation; disquisition. [1913 Webster]

The Collaborative International Dictionary of English. 2000.

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