Webster's Dictionary 
(1): ( n.) 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.
(2): ( n.) An assay. See Assay, n.
(3): ( n.) To test the value and purity of (metals); to assay. See Assay.
(4): ( n.) 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.
(5): ( n.) 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.
King James Dictionary 
Essa'Y, L. sequor. See Seek. The radical sense is to press, drive, urge, strain, strive.
1. To try to attempt to endeavor to exert one's power or faculties, or to make an effort to perform any thing.
While I this unexampled task essay.
2. To make experiment of. 3. To try the value and purity of metals. In this application, the word is now more generally written assay, which see.