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.

Synonyms: 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. 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.

(01 Mar 1998)

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