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The Origins of the Word 'Essay'

We have observed a lot of different types of essays, we’ve given a lot of ‘how to…’ tips on your writing, but we haven’t yet discussed the origins or etymology of the word itself. So, what does ‘essay’ mean? What are its origins?

Back in 1597 it was first used by Francis Bacon to denominate a short literary composition. In French it’s essai, one of the meanings of which is trial, attempt (Etymology Dictionary). Some researchers say that the first person to use this word, namely Michel de Montaigne, who published his book called ‘Essais’ in 1588. In those times, the word essay referred to a piece of writing in which the writer revealed his opinion on certain problem.

Later, in 19th century, essay became a popular literature form which was mainly used in critical writing. Edgar Allan Poe is one of the most prominent essayists of this period.

Nowadays essay can be frequently seen in newspapers, where famous writers usually have their column and publish small notes on current issues in different spheres of life. It also became an academic writing form which is now used in high schools and universities as a popular task. Read more about argumentative essays, narrative essays and personal essays.

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