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Definition of 'essay'

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  • 1.1.1 Pronunciation
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  • Translations
  • 1.2.1 Pronunciation
  • Translations
  • 1.3 Anagrams
  • 2.1 Etymology
  • 2.2 Pronunciation
  • 2.3.1 Hypernyms
  • 2.3.2 Derived terms
  • 2.3.3 Descendants
  • 3.1 Etymology
  • 3.2.1 Derived terms
  • 3.3 References
  • 4.1 Etymology
  • 4.2.1 Derived terms
  • 4.3 References

English [ edit ]

Etymology 1 [ edit ].

Since late 16th century, borrowed from Middle French essay , essai ( “ essay ” ) , meaning coined by Montaigne in the same time, from the same words in earlier meanings 'experiment; assay; attempt', from Old French essay , essai , assay , assai , from Latin exagium ( “ weight; weighing, testing on the balance ” ) , from exigere + -ium .

Pronunciation [ edit ]

  • ( Received Pronunciation , General American ) IPA ( key ) : /ˈɛs.eɪ/ (1), IPA ( key ) : /ɛˈseɪ/ (2-4)
  • Rhymes: -ɛseɪ
  • Homophone : ese

Noun [ edit ]

essay ( plural essays )

  • 2013 January, Katie L. Burke, “Ecological Dependency”, in American Scientist ‎ [1] , volume 101 , number 1, archived from the original on 9 February 2017 , page 64 : In his first book since the 2008 essay collection Natural Acts: A Sidelong View of Science and Nature , David Quammen looks at the natural world from yet another angle: the search for the next human pandemic, what epidemiologists call “the next big one.”
  • ( obsolete ) A test , experiment ; an assay .
  • 1861 , E. J. Guerin, Mountain Charley , page 16 : My first essay at getting employment was fruitless; but after no small number of mortifying rebuffs from various parties to whom I applied for assistance, I was at last rewarded by a comparative success.
  • 1988 , James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom , Oxford, published 2003 , page 455 : This was Lee's first essay in the kind of offensive-defensive strategy that was to become his hallmark.
  • ( philately , finance ) A proposed design for a postage stamp or a banknote .

Derived terms [ edit ]

  • argumentative essay
  • automated essay scoring
  • eight-legged essay
  • essay question
  • photo-essay
  • photo essay

Related terms [ edit ]

Translations [ edit ], etymology 2 [ edit ].

From Middle French essayer , essaier , from Old French essaiier , essayer , essaier , assaiier , assayer , assaier , from essay , essai , assay , assai ( “ attempt; assay; experiment ” ) as above.

  • ( UK , US ) IPA ( key ) : /ɛˈseɪ/

Verb [ edit ]

essay ( third-person singular simple present essays , present participle essaying , simple past and past participle essayed )

  • 1900 , Charles W. Chesnutt , chapter II, in The House Behind the Cedars : He retraced his steps to the front gate, which he essayed to open.
  • 1950 April, R. A. H. Weight, “They Passed by My Window”, in Railway Magazine , page 260 : The train took the slow to branch spur at the north end at a not much slower speed, then essayed the short sharply curved climb with a terrific roar, smoke rising straight from the chimney to a height of some 60 ft., the long train twisting and curling behind.
  • ( intransitive ) To move forth, as into battle.

Anagrams [ edit ]

  • Sayes , Seays , Sesay , eyass

Dutch [ edit ]

Etymology [ edit ].

Borrowed from English essay ( “ essay ” ) , from Middle French essai ( “ essay; attempt, assay ” ) , from Old French essai , from Latin exagium (whence the neuter gender).

  • IPA ( key ) : /ɛˈseː/ , /ˈɛ.seː/
  • Hyphenation: es‧say
  • Rhymes: -eː

essay   n ( plural essays , diminutive essaytje   n )

Hypernyms [ edit ]

Descendants [ edit ], norwegian bokmål [ edit ].

Borrowed from English essay , from Middle French essai .

essay   n ( definite singular essayet , indefinite plural essay or essayer , definite plural essaya or essayene )

  • an essay , a written composition of moderate length exploring a particular subject
  • essaysamling

References [ edit ]

  • “essay” in The Bokmål Dictionary .

Norwegian Nynorsk [ edit ]

essay   n ( definite singular essayet , indefinite plural essay , definite plural essaya )

  • “essay” in The Nynorsk Dictionary .

plural of essay is

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Eseys or Essays – Which is Correct?

  • by Sarah Thompson
  • March 3, 2024

Let’s have a conversation about the common mistake people make when writing the word “Essays.” Many individuals seem to get confused between “Eseys” and “Essays” and find themselves wondering which spelling is correct. Today, we will debunk this confusion and establish the correct spelling once and for all.

To address this issue, it is pertinent to emphasize that “Essays” is the correct spelling of the word. The incorrect term “Eseys” is a common misspelling resulting from a typographical error or a lack of familiarity with the correct spelling.

Now, let’s learn the reasons why “Essays” is the right spelling. Firstly, “Essays” is the plural form of the singular noun “Essay.” When we want to refer to more than one essay, we simply add an “s” to the end of the word. This is the conventional English rule for forming plurals of nouns, and it applies to “Essay” as well. For example, “I have written multiple essays on various topics.” Here, the correct plural form of “Essay” is used to convey the idea that the speaker has written more than one essay.

Moreover, we can also look at past forms of verbs to further solidify the correct spelling. For instance, the verb form of “Essay” is “Essayed.” “Essayed” is the past tense form, and by examining the conjugation of the verb, we can recognize that “Essays” is indeed the accurate plural form. You might say, “He essayed his thoughts on the subject,” to convey that someone expressed their ideas in the form of an essay.

To illustrate the incorrect spelling, “Eseys,” it is crucial to emphasize that this word does not exist in Standard English. It is a mistake that has often emerged due to a lack of knowledge or inattentiveness during writing. Therefore, it is essential to be attentive and avoid this misspelling in formal writing, as it may weaken your language skills and leave a negative impression on the reader.

In conclusion, we have effectively established that the correct spelling of the word referring to multiple essays is “Essays.” “Eseys” is an erroneous form that should be avoided. Remember, using proper grammar and spelling not only enhances your communication skills, but it also showcases your proficiency in the English language. So, the next time you find yourself unsure about whether to write “Eseys” or “Essays,” confidently choose the latter for an accurate and grammatically correct sentence!

So, keep practicing your writing skills, pay attention to proper grammar, and remember the correct spelling of “Essays.” With dedication and practice, you will become an exceptional writer and expert in the English language.

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Pronunciation [ change ]

Noun [ change ].

  • The plural form of essay ; more than one (kind of) essay.

Verb [ change ]

  • The third-person singular form of essay .

plural of essay is

  • Regular verbs
  • Third-person singular forms
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To 'Essay' or 'Assay'?

You know what an essay is. It's that piece you had to write in school, hopefully not (but probably) the night before it was due, about a subject such as What Freedom Means to You—at least five pages, double-spaced, and don't even try to get away with anything larger than a 12-point font. (Kudos for thinking to tweak the margins, though.)

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Remember the difference and get an 'A' for effort.

You might also know that essay can be a verb, with its most common meaning being "to try, attempt, or undertake":

A very close approach to the evil of Idi Amin is essayed in Giles Foden's 1998 novel The Last King of Scotland , whose narrator is the Scottish personal physician to the dictator. — Norman Rush, The New York Review of Books , 7 Oct. 2004 The principal accidents she remembers, before last summer's, involved chipping a couple of teeth while, as a fifth grader, she was essaying a back flip off a diving board,... — E. J. Kahn, Jr., The New Yorker , 17 Aug. 1987

The verb assay , meanwhile, is used to mean "to test or evaluate" and can be applied to anything from laboratory samples to contest entries:

He bounced from job to job, working on a shrimp boat and later for Pan American Laboratories assaying chemicals coming in from Mexico. — Steve Clark, The Brownville Herald , 21 Apr. 2017 "Each burger will be assayed by visitors and a panel of judges, including local chefs Jen Knox, Gina Sansonia, Judith Able, Bret Hauser, Camilo Cuartas and Peter Farrand." — Phillip Valys, SouthFlorida.com , 19 May 2017

While this distinction might seem clear-cut on the surface, there exists a great deal of historical overlap between essay and assay . The two words derive from the same root—the Middle French essai , which ultimately derives from a Late Latin noun, exagium , meaning "act of weighing."

At one time, assay and essay were synonyms, sharing the meaning "try" or "attempt." In the 17th century, an essay was an effort to test or prove something:

Edmond: I hope, for my brother's justification, he wrote this but as an essay or taste of my virtue. — William Shakespeare, King Lear , 1606

For the modern noun use of essay to mean "a written exploration of a topic," we can almost certainly thank Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592), a French writer noted for working in the form. Borrowing a word that emphasized their identity as literary "attempts," Montaigne devised Essais as a title for the vignette-typed pieces that he began publishing in 1580 and spanned over a thousand pages, covering subjects as varied and wide-ranging as solitude, cannibalism, and drunkenness.

Those last ones probably won't be in the final exam.

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Meaning of essay in English

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  • I want to finish off this essay before I go to bed .
  • His essay was full of spelling errors .
  • Have you given that essay in yet ?
  • Have you handed in your history essay yet ?
  • I'd like to discuss the first point in your essay.
  • boilerplate
  • composition
  • dissertation
  • essay question
  • peer review
  • go after someone
  • go all out idiom
  • go down swinging/fighting idiom
  • go for it idiom
  • go for someone
  • shoot the works idiom
  • smarten (someone/something) up
  • smarten up your act idiom
  • square the circle idiom
  • step on the gas idiom

essay | Intermediate English

Examples of essay, collocations with essay.

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your bread and butter

a job or activity that provides you with the money you need to live

Shoots, blooms and blossom: talking about plants

Shoots, blooms and blossom: talking about plants

plural of essay is

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a short literary composition on a particular theme or subject, usually in prose and generally analytic, speculative, or interpretative.

anything resembling such a composition: a picture essay.

an effort to perform or accomplish something; attempt.

Philately . a design for a proposed stamp differing in any way from the design of the stamp as issued.

Obsolete . a tentative effort; trial; assay.

to try; attempt.

to put to the test; make trial of.

Origin of essay

Other words from essay.

  • es·say·er, noun
  • pre·es·say, verb (used without object)
  • un·es·sayed, adjective
  • well-es·sayed, adjective

Words that may be confused with essay

  • assay , essay

Words Nearby essay

  • essay question

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use essay in a sentence

As several of my colleagues commented, the result is good enough that it could pass for an essay written by a first-year undergraduate, and even get a pretty decent grade.

GPT-3 also raises concerns about the future of essay writing in the education system.

This little essay helps focus on self-knowledge in what you’re best at, and how you should prioritize your time.

As Steven Feldstein argues in the opening essay , technonationalism plays a part in the strengthening of other autocracies too.

He’s written a collection of essays on civil engineering life titled Bridginess, and to this day he and Lauren go on “bridge dates,” where they enjoy a meal and admire the view of a nearby span.

I think a certain kind of compelling essay has a piece of that.

The current attack on the Jews,” he wrote in a 1937 essay , “targets not just this people of 15 million but mankind as such.

The impulse to interpret seems to me what makes personal essay writing compelling.

To be honest, I think a lot of good essay writing comes out of that.

Someone recently sent me an old Joan Didion essay on self-respect that appeared in Vogue.

There is more of the uplifted forefinger and the reiterated point than I should have allowed myself in an essay .

Consequently he was able to turn in a clear essay upon the subject, which, upon examination, the king found to be free from error.

It is no part of the present essay to attempt to detail the particulars of a code of social legislation.

But angels and ministers of grace defend us from ministers of religion who essay art criticism!

It is fit that the imagination, which is free to go through all things, should essay such excursions.

British Dictionary definitions for essay

a short literary composition dealing with a subject analytically or speculatively

an attempt or endeavour; effort

a test or trial

to attempt or endeavour; try

to test or try out

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Cultural definitions for essay

A short piece of writing on one subject, usually presenting the author's own views. Michel de Montaigne , Francis Bacon (see also Bacon ), and Ralph Waldo Emerson are celebrated for their essays.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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  • What Is a Plural Noun? | Examples, Rules & Exceptions

What Is a Plural Noun? | Examples, Rules & Exceptions

Published on April 14, 2023 by Jack Caulfield .

A plural noun  is a noun that refers to more than one of something (as opposed to a singular noun, which refers to just one). Like singular nouns, they may refer to people, animals, things, concepts, or places.

Plural nouns are normally formed by adding -s to the singular noun (e.g., the singular “cat” becomes the plural “cats”). With certain nouns, you need to add or change some of the other letters. The rules are explained in the table below.

There are also some irregular plurals that don’t end in  -s at all. The following section explains them.

Table of contents

Irregular plurals, plurals of compound nouns, common mistake: adding an apostrophe, plural nouns with singular functions, nouns that are always plural, uncountable nouns, worksheet: plural nouns, other interesting language articles, frequently asked questions about plural nouns.

Some plural nouns don’t end in -s at all. These are generally called irregular plurals . They are typically either leftovers from older ways of forming plurals in English or foreign words that were imported into English.

Only a small proportion of nouns have irregular plurals, but some of them are very commonly used words, so it’s important to be aware of them. There are a few main groups of irregular plurals, which are explained in the table below.

If you’re unsure about how to pluralize a word that isn’t mentioned in the table, consult a dictionary.

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Compound nouns are nouns that are made up of multiple words. They may be open compounds (written with spaces; e.g., “head of state”); hyphenated compounds (written with hyphens ; e.g., “brother-in-law”); or closed compounds (no spaces or hyphens; e.g., “household”).

To create the plural of a compound noun, you often pluralize only the final word (e.g., “high schools “), but there are also cases where you pluralize an earlier word (e.g., “ heads of state”) or occasionally multiple words (e.g., “ men-children “).

To determine how to pluralize a compound noun, consider which word is the “head” of the noun—the thing being represented, which the other words modify. For example, “high schools” refers to multiple schools, not multiple “highs.”

When it’s still not obvious, consult a dictionary to find the correct plural.

A common mistake when forming plural nouns is to add an apostrophe before the “s.” In English, apostrophes are used to form possessive nouns and contractions , not plurals. You also don’t need an apostrophe to pluralize a number, acronym , or proper noun .

  • Maya loves pop music from the 1980’s .
  • Maya loves pop music from the 1980s .
  • SUV’s are bad for the environment and for road safety.
  • SUVs are bad for the environment and for road safety.
  • The Jones’s have gone on vacation.
  • The Joneses have gone on vacation.

There’s one context in which it’s standard to use an apostrophe to form the plural. This is when you’re pluralizing a single letter. The apostrophe is generally added in such cases to avoid confusion with other words (e.g., “a’s” vs. “as”).

Some nouns are said to be plural in form but singular in construction . These words originate as plural forms but are now primarily used in a singular sense.

This is most common in the names of fields of study: for example, “physics,” “mathematics,” “ethics,” and “aesthetics.” Other examples include “news,” “measles,” and “billiards.”

“Singular in construction” means that these words have singular subject-verb agreement . For example, you’d write “the news is …” rather than “the news are …”

Similarly, some nouns are always plural and have no singular form—typically because they refer to something that consists of a pair of something. For example, “scissors” consist of two blades, “pants” of two legs, and “glasses” of two lenses.

Even a single pair of scissors, for example, is referred to in the plural (e.g., “the scissors are over there”). These nouns are sometimes referred to by the Latin term plurale tantum (“plural only”).

Because it’s wrong to use an indefinite article with a plural noun (e.g., “a scissors”) and no singular form exists (e.g., there’s no such thing as “a scissor”), the phrase “a pair of” is used before the noun when an indefinite article is needed. “Pairs of” is also used to specify quantities of these nouns (e.g., “three pairs of pants,” not “three pants”).

Your new spectacles suit you very nicely.

How many pairs of shorts do you own?

Uncountable nouns (also called mass nouns or noncount nouns ) are nouns that don’t have a plural form and can’t be preceded by an indefinite article (“a” or “an”). They often refer to abstract ideas or processes (e.g., “research”), physical substances (e.g., “water”), or areas of study (e.g., “geography”).

Uncountable nouns are singular, not plural, in terms of subject-verb agreement, and the words themselves cannot be pluralized. An alternative phrasing or word choice must be used instead:

  • Several researches have been performed on this subject.
  • A substantial amount of research has been performed on this subject.
  • Several studies have been performed on this subject.
  • Several pieces of research have been performed on this subject.

If you need to refer to a specific quantity of an uncountable noun, you use a unit of measurement to do so, since the noun itself doesn’t represent a specific quantity:

  • There are 70 waters in the glass.
  • There are 70 ml of water in the glass.

Test your understanding of how plural nouns are formed with the worksheet below. In each sentence, add the correct plural form of the noun in brackets. Some of the plurals are regular, some irregular.

  • Practice questions
  • Answers and explanations
  • I love visiting [church] _______ on my [travel] _______.
  • The atmosphere is made up of several [gas] _______.
  • I bought two [loaf] _______ of bread and some [tomato] _______ at the market.
  • Many [species] _______ of [fish] _______ live in [river] _______.
  • A lot of [game of chance] __________________ involve rolling [die] _______.
  • The singular noun “church” ends in “-ch,” so “-es” is added to form the plural noun. “Travels” is pluralized in the normal way, by adding “-s.”
  • “Gas” ends in “-s,” so “-es” is added to pluralize it.
  • As with some other nouns ending in “-f,” the plural form of “loaf” ends in “-ves.” “Tomato” follows the rule for most nouns ending in “-o” by adding “-es.”
  • Both “species” and “fish” have the same form in the singular and the plural, so nothing is added to them. “River” is pluralized normally.
  • The open compound noun “game of chance” is pluralized by adding “-s” to the head of the phrase, “game.” “Chance” is not pluralized. The word “die” has the irregular plural “dice.”

If you want to know more about nouns , pronouns , verbs , and other parts of speech , make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations and examples.

Nouns & pronouns

  • Common nouns
  • Proper nouns
  • Collective nouns
  • Personal pronouns
  • Uncountable and countable nouns
  • Verb tenses
  • Phrasal verbs
  • Sentence structure
  • Active vs passive voice
  • Subject-verb agreement
  • Interjections
  • Determiners
  • Prepositions

The plural of “moose” is the same as the singular: “moose.” It’s one of a group of plural nouns in English that are identical to the corresponding singular nouns. So it’s wrong to write “mooses.”

For example, you might write “There are several moose in the forest.”

The correct plural of “octopus” is “octopuses.”

People often write “octopi” instead because they assume that the plural noun is formed in the same way as Latin loanwords such as “fungus/fungi.” But “octopus” actually comes from Greek, where its original plural is “octopodes.” In English, it instead has the regular plural form “octopuses.”

For example, you might write “There are four octopuses in the aquarium.”

Normally, the plural of “fish” is the same as the singular: “fish.” It’s one of a group of irregular plural nouns in English that are identical to the corresponding singular nouns (e.g., “moose,” “sheep”). For example, you might write “The fish scatter as the shark approaches.”

If you’re referring to several species of fish, though, the regular plural “fishes” is often used instead. For example, “The aquarium contains many different fishes , including trout and carp.”

The plural of “crisis” is “crises.” It’s a loanword from Latin and retains its original Latin plural noun form (similar to “analyses” and “bases”). It’s wrong to write “crisises.”

For example, you might write “Several crises destabilized the regime.”

Sources in this article

We strongly encourage students to use sources in their work. You can cite our article (APA Style) or take a deep dive into the articles below.

Caulfield, J. (2023, April 14). What Is a Plural Noun? | Examples, Rules & Exceptions. Scribbr. Retrieved April 2, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/nouns-and-pronouns/plural-noun/
Aarts, B. (2011). Oxford modern English grammar . Oxford University Press.
Butterfield, J. (Ed.). (2015). Fowler’s dictionary of modern English usage (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.
Garner, B. A. (2022). Garner’s modern English usage (5th ed.). Oxford University Press.

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Count and Noncount Nouns (with Plurals, Articles, and Quantity Words)

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This handout discusses the differences between count nouns and noncount nouns. Count nouns can be pluralized; noncount nouns cannot.

Section 1: Definition of Count and Noncount Nouns

Count or noncount.

The main difference between count and noncount nouns is whether you can count the things they refer to or not.

Count nouns refer to things that exist as separate and distinct individual units. They usually refer to what can be perceived by the senses.

Example sentences:

I stepped in a puddle. (How many puddles did you step in? Just one.)

I drank a glass of milk. (Glasses of milk can be counted)

I saw an apple tree. (Apple trees can be counted)

Noncount nouns refer to things that can't be counted because they are thought of as wholes that can't be cut into parts. They often refer to abstractions and occasionally have a collective meaning (for example, furniture).

I dove into the water. (How many waters did you dive into? The question doesn't make any sense; therefore water is noncountable.)

I saw the milk spill. (How many milks? Milk cannot be counted.)

I admired the foliage. (How many foliages? Foliage cannot be counted.)

Think of the batter from which a cake is made. Before you put the batter into the oven, it can't be divided into parts because it's a thick liquid. Once it has been baked, it becomes solid enough to be cut into pieces. Noncount nouns are like cake batter; count nouns are like pieces of cake

Note: Since the issue is complicated and almost no rule is absolute, there will be exceptions to the above definitions; however, we can show some general patterns. Bear in mind that what is countable in another language may not be countable in English, and vice versa.

Section 2: Uses of Count and Noncount Nouns


From the definitions of mass and count given above you may have already guessed the rule for pluralizing them:

  • most count nouns pluralize with -s
  • noncount nouns don't pluralize at all

This rule works for all of the nouns in the lists of examples in the first section. Check this rule for yourself before reading further.

An Exception to the Rule

For a number of nouns, the rule needs slight revision. Certain nouns in English belong to both classes: they have both a noncount and a count meaning. Normally the noncount meaning is abstract and general and the count meaning concrete and specific. Compare:

  • I've had some difficulties finding a job. (refers to a number of specific problems)
  • The talks will take place in the Krannert building. (refers to a number of specific lectures)
  • The city was filled with bright lights and harsh sounds. (refers to a number of specific lights and noises)
  • She succeeded in school with little difficulty . (refers to the general idea of school being difficult)
  • I dislike idle talk . (refers to talking in general)
  • Light travels faster than sound. (refers to the way light and sound behave in general)

Note: A special case of the use of noncount nouns in a count sense has to do with classification. Sometimes a usually noncount noun can be understood as one item separate and distinct from other items of the same category. The nouns that function in this way often denote foods and beverages: food(s), drink(s), wine(s), bread(s), coffee(s), fruit(s), and so on. Examples:

  • There are several French wines to choose from. (= kinds of wine)
  • I prefer Sumatran coffees to Colombian. (= kinds of coffee)
  • We use a variety of different batters in our bakery. (= kinds of batter)

A recent entry into this class is homework, which at least among some students has the count plural homeworks in addition to its noncount use. (For example, "You're missing three of the homeworks from the first part of the course.") Because this usage is not firmly established and is likely to be considered nonstandard, you should check with your instructor before using it in writing.

A Revision of the Rule

These exceptions require that the rule for pluralizing be revised: count nouns and nouns used in a count sense pluralize; noncount nouns and nouns used in a noncount sense do not.

The two possibilities in each half of the rule require different choices. If you know that a particular noun must be either count or noncount and cannot be both, you need to decide only if it is possible to pluralize the noun. On the other hand, if you know that a particular noun may be used in either a count or noncount sense, then you need to decide whether it is appropriate to pluralize.

To summarize, we may put the rule in a chart, like this:

Nouns and Articles

Choosing which article to use (if any) with a noun is a complex matter because the range of choices depends on whether the noun in question is 1) count or noncount and 2) singular or plural. Both count nouns (whether singular or plural) and noncount nouns take articles.

Combinations of Nouns and Articles

The following chart shows which articles go with which kinds of nouns. Notice that this , that , these , and those have been included because, like the, they mark the noun that they modify as definite, which means that the noun refers 1) to a unique individual or 2) to some person, event, or object known to both the writer and reader from their general knowledge or from what has been previously mentioned in a piece of writing.

Count Singular: I ate an apple. I rode the bus. Does she live in this house? No, she lives in that house over there.

Count Plural: I like to feed the birds. Do you want these books? No, I want those books up there. Cats are interesting pets.

Noncount: The water is cold. This milk is going sour. Music helps me relax.

Quantity Terms

The following chart shows which quantity words go with which kinds of nouns. Note that quantity words can be used in combinations such as many more, many fewer, much more, and much less, any of which can be preceded by how to form questions or relative clauses. Negatives like not and no can also be applied to many of these terms.

Count Singular: I practice every day. I'd like one donut, please.

Count Plural: Can I have some chips? She has a lot of books, and many are autographed. I have fewer pencils than you.

Noncount: Can I have some water? She has a lot of strength, and much is due to her upbringing. I have less courage than you.

Essay Plural, What is the Plural of Essay?

Meaning: a short piece of writing on a particular subject.

Table of Contents

Plural of Essay

  • dissertation

Essay as a Singular Noun in Example Sentences:

  • She submitted her essay before the deadline.
  • The student received an A+ on his essay .
  • The teacher assigned a persuasive essay for the assignment.
  • He spent hours researching and writing the essay .
  • The essay explored the theme of identity in literature.
  • The scholarship required a well-written essay on a specific topic.
  • The university professor provided feedback on the essay .
  • The essay was published in a renowned academic journal.

Essay as a Plural Noun in Example Sentences:

  • The students submitted their essays for grading.
  • The conference received numerous essays from scholars around the world.
  • The collection of essays covered a wide range of topics.
  • The professor assigned weekly essays to encourage critical thinking.
  • The finalists presented their essays in front of the audience.
  • The anthology included essays from various renowned authors.
  • The competition aimed to recognize outstanding essays on social issues.
  • The workshop focused on refining students’ persuasive essays .

Singular Possessive of Essay:

The singular possessive form of “Essay” is “Essay’s”.

Examples of Singular Possessive Form of Essay:

  • I need to read Essay’s conclusion.
  • The topic of Essay’s first paragraph is intriguing.
  • Have you seen Essay’s thesis statement?
  • I appreciate Essay’s insightful analysis.
  • The structure of Essay’s body paragraphs is clear.
  • Essay’s introduction captures the reader’s attention.
  • I admire Essay’s coherent argumentation.
  • Essay’s conclusion summarizes the main points.
  • Can you provide me with Essay’s bibliography?
  • The evidence in Essay’s supporting paragraphs is compelling.

Plural Possessive of Essay:

The plural possessive form of “Essay” is “Essays'”.

Examples of Plural Possessive Form of Essay:

  • I need to read the Essays’ conclusions.
  • The topics of the Essays’ first paragraphs are diverse.
  • Have you seen the Essays’ thesis statements?
  • I appreciate the Essays’ insightful analyses.
  • The structures of the Essays’ body paragraphs are well-organized.
  • The Essays’ introductions engage the readers effectively.
  • I admire the Essays’ coherent argumentations.
  • The Essays’ conclusions summarize the main points eloquently.
  • Can you provide me with the Essays’ bibliographies?
  • The evidence in the Essays’ supporting paragraphs is substantial.

Explore Related Nouns:

  • Complete List of Singular Plurals

Last updated on June 9th, 2023 at 09:23 pm

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“Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo,” Gospel Topics Essays (2016)

“Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo,” Gospel Topics Essays

Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo

Latter-day Saints believe that monogamy—the marriage of one man and one woman—is the Lord’s standing law of marriage. 1 In biblical times, the Lord commanded some of His people to practice plural marriage—the marriage of one man and more than one woman. 2 Some early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also received and obeyed this commandment given through God’s prophets.

After receiving a revelation commanding him to practice plural marriage, Joseph Smith married multiple wives and introduced the practice to close associates. This principle was among the most challenging aspects of the Restoration—for Joseph personally and for other Church members. Plural marriage tested faith and provoked controversy and opposition. Few Latter-day Saints initially welcomed the restoration of a biblical practice entirely foreign to their sensibilities. But many later testified of powerful spiritual experiences that helped them overcome their hesitation and gave them courage to accept this practice.

Although the Lord commanded the adoption—and later the cessation—of plural marriage in the latter days, He did not give exact instructions on how to obey the commandment. Significant social and cultural changes often include misunderstandings and difficulties. Church leaders and members experienced these challenges as they heeded the command to practice plural marriage and again later as they worked to discontinue it after Church President Wilford Woodruff issued an inspired statement known as the Manifesto in 1890, which led to the end of plural marriage in the Church. Through it all, Church leaders and members sought to follow God’s will.

Many details about the early practice of plural marriage are unknown. Plural marriage was introduced among the early Saints incrementally, and participants were asked to keep their actions confidential. They did not discuss their experiences publicly or in writing until after the Latter-day Saints had moved to Utah and Church leaders had publicly acknowledged the practice. The historical record of early plural marriage is therefore thin: few records of the time provide details, and later reminiscences are not always reliable. Some ambiguity will always accompany our knowledge about this issue. Like the participants, we “see through a glass, darkly” and are asked to walk by faith. 3

The Beginnings of Plural Marriage in the Church

The revelation on plural marriage was not written down until 1843, but its early verses suggest that part of it emerged from Joseph Smith’s study of the Old Testament in 1831. People who knew Joseph well later stated he received the revelation about that time. 4 The revelation, recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 132, states that Joseph prayed to know why God justified Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and Solomon in having many wives. The Lord responded that He had commanded them to enter into the practice. 5

Latter-day Saints understood that they were living in the latter days, in what the revelations called the “dispensation of the fulness of times.” 6 Ancient principles—such as prophets, priesthood, and temples—would be restored to the earth. Plural marriage was one of those ancient principles.

Polygamy had been permitted for millennia in many cultures and religions, but, with few exceptions, was rejected in Western cultures. 7 In Joseph Smith’s time, monogamy was the only legal form of marriage in the United States. Joseph knew the practice of plural marriage would stir up public ire. After receiving the commandment, he taught a few associates about it, but he did not spread this teaching widely in the 1830s. 8

When God commands a difficult task, He sometimes sends additional messengers to encourage His people to obey. Consistent with this pattern, Joseph told associates that an angel appeared to him three times between 1834 and 1842 and commanded him to proceed with plural marriage when he hesitated to move forward. During the third and final appearance, the angel came with a drawn sword, threatening Joseph with destruction unless he went forward and obeyed the commandment fully. 9

Fragmentary evidence suggests that Joseph Smith acted on the angel’s first command by marrying a plural wife, Fanny Alger, in Kirtland, Ohio, in the mid-1830s. Several Latter-day Saints who had lived in Kirtland reported decades later that Joseph Smith had married Alger, who lived and worked in the Smith household, after he had obtained her consent and that of her parents. 10 Little is known about this marriage, and nothing is known about the conversations between Joseph and Emma regarding Alger. After the marriage with Alger ended in separation, Joseph seems to have set the subject of plural marriage aside until after the Church moved to Nauvoo, Illinois.

Plural Marriage and Eternal Marriage

The same revelation that taught of plural marriage was part of a larger revelation given to Joseph Smith—that marriage could last beyond death and that eternal marriage was essential to inheriting the fulness that God desires for His children. As early as 1840, Joseph Smith privately taught Apostle Parley P. Pratt that the “heavenly order” allowed Pratt and his wife to be together “for time and all eternity.” 11 Joseph also taught that men like Pratt—who had remarried following the death of his first wife—could be married (or sealed) to their wives for eternity, under the proper conditions. 12

The sealing of husband and wife for eternity was made possible by the restoration of priesthood keys and ordinances. On April 3, 1836, the Old Testament prophet Elijah appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple and restored the priesthood keys necessary to perform ordinances for the living and the dead, including sealing families together. 13 Marriages performed by priesthood authority could link loved ones to each other for eternity, on condition of righteousness; marriages performed without this authority would end at death. 14

Marriage performed by priesthood authority meant that the procreation of children and perpetuation of families would continue into the eternities. Joseph Smith’s revelation on marriage declared that the “continuation of the seeds forever and ever” helped to fulfill God’s purposes for His children. 15 This promise was given to all couples who were married by priesthood authority and were faithful to their covenants.

Plural Marriage in Nauvoo

For much of Western history, family “interest”—economic, political, and social considerations—dominated the choice of spouse. Parents had the power to arrange marriages or forestall unions of which they disapproved. By the late 1700s, romance and personal choice began to rival these traditional motives and practices. 16 By Joseph Smith’s time, many couples insisted on marrying for love, as he and Emma did when they eloped against her parents’ wishes.

Latter-day Saints’ motives for plural marriage were often more religious than economic or romantic. Besides the desire to be obedient, a strong incentive was the hope of living in God’s presence with family members. In the revelation on marriage, the Lord promised participants “crowns of eternal lives” and “exaltation in the eternal worlds.” 17 Men and women, parents and children, ancestors and progeny were to be “sealed” to each other—their commitment lasting into the eternities, consistent with Jesus’s promise that priesthood ordinances performed on earth could be “bound in heaven.” 18

The first plural marriage in Nauvoo took place when Louisa Beaman and Joseph Smith were sealed in April 1841. 19 Joseph married many additional wives and authorized other Latter-day Saints to practice plural marriage. The practice spread slowly at first. By June 1844, when Joseph died, approximately 29 men and 50 women had entered into plural marriage, in addition to Joseph and his wives. When the Saints entered the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, at least 196 men and 521 women had entered into plural marriages. 20 Participants in these early plural marriages pledged to keep their involvement confidential, though they anticipated a time when the practice would be publicly acknowledged.

Nevertheless, rumors spread. A few men unscrupulously used these rumors to seduce women to join them in an unauthorized practice sometimes referred to as “spiritual wifery.” When this was discovered, the men were cut off from the Church. 21 The rumors prompted members and leaders to issue carefully worded denials that denounced spiritual wifery and polygamy but were silent about what Joseph Smith and others saw as divinely mandated “celestial” plural marriage. 22 The statements emphasized that the Church practiced no marital law other than monogamy while implicitly leaving open the possibility that individuals, under direction of God’s living prophet, might do so. 23

Joseph Smith and Plural Marriage

During the era in which plural marriage was practiced, Latter-day Saints distinguished between sealings for time and eternity and sealings for eternity only. Sealings for time and eternity included commitments and relationships during this life, generally including the possibility of sexual relations. Eternity-only sealings indicated relationships in the next life alone.

Evidence indicates that Joseph Smith participated in both types of sealings. The exact number of women to whom he was sealed in his lifetime is unknown because the evidence is fragmentary. 24 Some of the women who were sealed to Joseph Smith later testified that their marriages were for time and eternity, while others indicated that their relationships were for eternity alone. 25

Most of those sealed to Joseph Smith were between 20 and 40 years of age at the time of their sealing to him. The oldest, Fanny Young, was 56 years old. The youngest was Helen Mar Kimball, daughter of Joseph’s close friends Heber C. and Vilate Murray Kimball, who was sealed to Joseph several months before her 15th birthday. Marriage at such an age, inappropriate by today’s standards, was legal in that era, and some women married in their mid-teens. 26 Helen Mar Kimball spoke of her sealing to Joseph as being “for eternity alone,” suggesting that the relationship did not involve sexual relations. 27 After Joseph’s death, Helen remarried and became an articulate defender of him and of plural marriage. 28

Following his marriage to Louisa Beaman and before he married other single women, Joseph Smith was sealed to a number of women who were already married. 29 Neither these women nor Joseph explained much about these sealings, though several women said they were for eternity alone. 30 Other women left no records, making it unknown whether their sealings were for time and eternity or were for eternity alone.

There are several possible explanations for this practice. These sealings may have provided a way to create an eternal bond or link between Joseph’s family and other families within the Church. 31 These ties extended both vertically, from parent to child, and horizontally, from one family to another. Today such eternal bonds are achieved through the temple marriages of individuals who are also sealed to their own birth families, in this way linking families together. Joseph Smith’s sealings to women already married may have been an early version of linking one family to another. In Nauvoo, most if not all of the first husbands seem to have continued living in the same household with their wives during Joseph’s lifetime, and complaints about these sealings with Joseph Smith are virtually absent from the documentary record. 32

These sealings may also be explained by Joseph’s reluctance to enter plural marriage because of the sorrow it would bring to his wife Emma. He may have believed that sealings to married women would comply with the Lord’s command without requiring him to have normal marriage relationships. 33 This could explain why, according to Lorenzo Snow, the angel reprimanded Joseph for having “demurred” on plural marriage even after he had entered into the practice. 34 After this rebuke, according to this interpretation, Joseph returned primarily to sealings with single women.

Another possibility is that, in an era when life spans were shorter than they are today, faithful women felt an urgency to be sealed by priesthood authority. Several of these women were married either to non-Mormons or former Mormons, and more than one of the women later expressed unhappiness in their present marriages. Living in a time when divorce was difficult to obtain, these women may have believed a sealing to Joseph Smith would give them blessings they might not otherwise receive in the next life. 35

The women who united with Joseph Smith in plural marriage risked reputation and self-respect in being associated with a principle so foreign to their culture and so easily misunderstood by others. “I made a greater sacrifice than to give my life,” said Zina Huntington Jacobs, “for I never anticipated again to be looked upon as an honorable woman.” Nevertheless, she wrote, “I searched the scripture & by humble prayer to my Heavenly Father I obtained a testimony for myself.” 36 After Joseph’s death, most of the women sealed to him moved to Utah with the Saints, remained faithful Church members, and defended both plural marriage and Joseph. 37

Joseph and Emma

Plural marriage was difficult for all involved. For Joseph Smith’s wife Emma, it was an excruciating ordeal. Records of Emma’s reactions to plural marriage are sparse; she left no firsthand accounts, making it impossible to reconstruct her thoughts. Joseph and Emma loved and respected each other deeply. After he had entered into plural marriage, he poured out his feelings in his journal for his “beloved Emma,” whom he described as “undaunted, firm and unwavering, unchangeable, affectionate Emma.” After Joseph’s death, Emma kept a lock of his hair in a locket she wore around her neck. 38

Emma approved, at least for a time, of four of Joseph Smith’s plural marriages in Nauvoo, and she accepted all four of those wives into her household. She may have approved of other marriages as well. 39 But Emma likely did not know about all of Joseph’s sealings. 40 She vacillated in her view of plural marriage, at some points supporting it and at other times denouncing it.

In the summer of 1843, Joseph Smith dictated the revelation on marriage, a lengthy and complex text containing both glorious promises and stern warnings, some directed at Emma. 41 The revelation instructed women and men that they must obey God’s law and commands in order to receive the fulness of His glory.

The revelation on marriage required that a wife give her consent before her husband could enter into plural marriage. 42 Nevertheless, toward the end of the revelation, the Lord said that if the first wife “receive not this law”—the command to practice plural marriage—the husband would be “exempt from the law of Sarah,” presumably the requirement that the husband gain the consent of the first wife before marrying additional women. 43 After Emma opposed plural marriage, Joseph was placed in an agonizing dilemma, forced to choose between the will of God and the will of his beloved Emma. He may have thought Emma’s rejection of plural marriage exempted him from the law of Sarah. Her decision to “receive not this law” permitted him to marry additional wives without her consent. Because of Joseph’s early death and Emma’s decision to remain in Nauvoo and not discuss plural marriage after the Church moved west, many aspects of their story remain known only to the two of them.

Trial and Spiritual Witness

Years later in Utah, participants in Nauvoo plural marriage discussed their motives for entering into the practice. God declared in the Book of Mormon that monogamy was the standard; at times, however, He commanded plural marriage so His people could “raise up seed unto [Him].” 44 Plural marriage did result in an increased number of children born to believing parents. 45

Some Saints also saw plural marriage as a redemptive process of sacrifice and spiritual refinement. According to Helen Mar Kimball, Joseph Smith stated that “the practice of this principle would be the hardest trial the Saints would ever have to test their faith.” Though it was one of the “severest” trials of her life, she testified that it had also been “one of the greatest blessings.” 46 Her father, Heber C. Kimball, agreed. “I never felt more sorrowful,” he said of the moment he learned of plural marriage in 1841. “I wept days. … I had a good wife. I was satisfied.” 47

The decision to accept such a wrenching trial usually came only after earnest prayer and intense soul-searching. Brigham Young said that, upon learning of plural marriage, “it was the first time in my life that I had desired the grave.” 48 “I had to pray unceasingly,” he said, “and I had to exercise faith and the Lord revealed to me the truth of it and that satisfied me.” 49 Heber C. Kimball found comfort only after his wife Vilate had a visionary experience attesting to the rightness of plural marriage. “She told me,” Vilate’s daughter later recalled, “she never saw so happy a man as father was when she described the vision and told him she was satisfied and knew it was from God.” 50

Lucy Walker recalled her inner turmoil when Joseph Smith invited her to become his wife. “Every feeling of my soul revolted against it,” she wrote. Yet, after several restless nights on her knees in prayer, she found relief as her room “filled with a holy influence” akin to “brilliant sunshine.” She said, “My soul was filled with a calm sweet peace that I never knew,” and “supreme happiness took possession of my whole being.” 51

Not all had such experiences. Some Latter-day Saints rejected the principle of plural marriage and left the Church, while others declined to enter the practice but remained faithful. 52 Nevertheless, for many women and men, initial revulsion and anguish was followed by struggle, resolution, and ultimately, light and peace. Sacred experiences enabled the Saints to move forward in faith. 53

The challenge of introducing a principle as controversial as plural marriage is almost impossible to overstate. A spiritual witness of its truthfulness allowed Joseph Smith and other Latter-day Saints to accept this principle. Difficult as it was, the introduction of plural marriage in Nauvoo did indeed “raise up seed” unto God. A substantial number of today’s members descend through faithful Latter-day Saints who practiced plural marriage.

Church members no longer practice plural marriage. 54 Consistent with Joseph Smith’s teachings, the Church permits a man whose wife has died to be sealed to another woman when he remarries. Moreover, members are permitted to perform ordinances on behalf of deceased men and women who married more than once on earth, sealing them to all of the spouses to whom they were legally married. The precise nature of these relationships in the next life is not known, and many family relationships will be sorted out in the life to come. Latter-day Saints are encouraged to trust in our wise Heavenly Father, who loves His children and does all things for their growth and salvation. 55

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Map of the United States. A red pin marks Waterville, Maine.

A Frozen Pond and a New Way to Experience an Ancient Jewish Ritual in Maine

Students from Colby College helped harvest ice from a pond for a new mikvah, or ritual bath, at a synagogue in Waterville.

plural of essay is


We’re exploring how America defines itself one place at a time. When a synagogue in Maine needed water for a ceremonial Jewish bath, it drew on a fitting natural source, with the help of some friends.

By Jenna Russell

Photographs by Tristan Spinski

Reporting from Waterville and Strong, Maine

Standing on a frozen pond in western Maine one Sunday morning last month, wearing L.L. Bean boots and a hooded sweatshirt, Rabbi Rachel Isaacs paused to consecrate the ice beneath her feet before she commandeered it for a higher purpose.

“Blessed are you, God, who has brought us to this moment!” the rabbi belted out. Austin Thorndike, a member of her congregation at Beth Israel Synagogue in Waterville, stood beside her. When the prayer was over, he fired up his chain saw and bent to dip it into the hard surface of the pond, deftly making four quick cuts to free a slick, white, cartoon-perfect block of ice.

The ice was destined for a highly unusual end. As the blocks multiplied, a crew of Colby College student athletes sprang into action, pulling them from the pond, pushing them to shore and swiftly loading them into waiting trucks. Next, the frozen cargo would be driven 40 miles to the synagogue, where the students would carry it to the basement. There, they would wipe each block clean with a cloth, stack it in the congregation’s brand-new mikvah, and leave it to melt.

The mikvah — a traditional Jewish bath used in rites of renewal and purification for thousands of years — would elevate this small synagogue in Waterville, a city of 16,000, to a destination for people from across Maine seeking a symbolic fresh start. But its creation, in accordance with ancient Jewish law, was not as simple as turning on a tap. To be kosher, a new mikvah must be initiated with “living water,” taken straight from nature.

Harvesting ice from a pond was not the easiest approach. (Collecting rainwater is more common.) But the woodsy, wintry plan felt right for Maine, participants said. So did the involvement of Colby students, some of them Jewish and some not.

In a rural state where a small Jewish population often needs grit, ingenuity and strong relationships to achieve its goals, the small liberal arts college and the small Waterville synagogue have long been closely tied. Friday night dinners at Beth Israel, hosted by Colby Hillel, the Jewish organization on campus, reliably serve 30 to 40 students, a mix of practicing Jews, their non-Jewish friends and others drawn to the cozy routine.

It was natural, then, for Rabbi Isaacs to seek ice-hauling help from students at Colby, where she is an assistant professor of Jewish studies and director of the college’s Center for Small Town Jewish Life.

Andrew Postal, a sophomore from Andover, Mass., brought fellow rugby players to the frozen pond, while Caitlin Kincaid, a senior from Colorado Springs, Colo., enlisted 10 members of the Colby Woodsmen Team, skilled in sawing wood and swinging axes.

“Upper body strength is something we have in abundance at Colby,” Rabbi Isaacs said.

At many synagogues, particularly Orthodox ones, the mikvah is reserved for strictly traditional uses, including conversion to Judaism and symbolic cleansing by women after menstruation. The new Waterville mikvah will be one of a few dozen across the country, and the only one in Maine, that is instead “open” — part of a 20-year-old movement by some more liberal congregations to make the tradition more inclusive, by using it to observe a more diverse array of milestones, like a college graduation or a gender transition .

Students recruited by the rabbi were eager to pitch in, even if they did not know what a mikvah was before she explained it.

“Everyone was like, ‘Yeah! The synagogue needs ice!’” said Will Whitman, 22, a senior rugby player who had quickly signed on to help. “Then we were like, ‘Wait — why does the synagogue need ice?’”

Stepping out onto the pond, their boots fortified with strap-on ice cleats, the students and other volunteers took turns gripping the heavy, freshly cut blocks with a pair of oversized log tongs and pulling them from the water. “It’s like the claw game,” said Alex Kimmel, 31, a member of a Jewish congregation in Augusta , as a block slipped out of her grasp and splashed back into the pond.

Others stood back and marveled at the scene — the small, spring-fed pond ringed by birch and pine; the fine mist rising from the melting snow; the students scooting ice blocks onto a plastic sled, which they dragged up a steep ridge of snow to the waiting trucks. More than one onlooker was reminded of the opening scene of “Frozen,” the Disney film set in frosty Arendelle.

To plan the operation, Rabbi Isaacs, 41, had leaned on the expertise of Mr. Thorndike, 35, an arborist and native Mainer who had offered the ice from a pond on his family’s land. (“I’m from the Jersey Shore,” Rabbi Isaacs said. “I trust the Maine-ness of my congregation.”)

Mr. Thorndike’s own conversion to Judaism, in 2020, helped spur the plan to build an in-house mikvah at Beth Israel. An immersion in living water is needed to complete the conversion process, but the nearest mikvah, about 60 miles away in Bangor, was closed at the time because of the pandemic.

Eager to seal the deal, Mr. Thorndike had agreed to immerse himself in a Maine lake instead — in October.

“To be kosher, it has to be three full submersions, and you can’t be touching anything, so I was treading water,” he said. “It was like Navy SEAL training.”

Watching him suffer, the rabbi resolved to engineer a less painful option.

“His teeth were chattering so much he could barely say the blessing,” she recalled.

Conversions have occurred with increasing frequency since Rabbi Isaacs arrived to lead Beth Israel. The congregation, founded in 1902, had dwindled to fewer than 20 families by the time she became rabbi in 2011. It has since rebounded to 70.

Tell Us About Where You Live

More than 20 percent of its current members are “Jews by choice” who were not raised in the religion — growth that Rabbi Isaacs sees as critical to her synagogue’s future, “and to the future of small-town Jewish life” across America.

The synagogue enlisted other Jewish congregations in Maine, which will also use the mikvah, to help pay for its ongoing maintenance.

“You might expect to see this in Boston or New York, but to have it here, in a small college town, is extraordinary,” said Julie Childers, director of the Mayyim Hayyim mikvah in Newton, Mass. “Sometimes it’s small towns where things like this can happen.”

Ms. Childers, who traveled to Maine for the ice harvest, oversees a national network of “open” mikv’ot (the plural of mikvah), providing guidance on construction, training sessions and text for ceremonies, among other services.

Rabbi Isaacs — who said she thinks of herself as “Waterville’s rabbi,” not just Beth Israel’s — will welcome non-Jews into the mikvah too, in keeping with the synagogue’s diverse relationships.

“It’s a venue for deepening one’s relationship with spirituality, for beginning again,” she said. “There aren’t many venues for that kind of renewal.”

With the Colby students keeping a brisk pace, shedding layers of clothing as they worked, the ice was cut and ready for transport in under an hour. Whisked through the woods and villages of western Maine — Rabbi Isaacs drove 10 of the 60 blocks herself in her pickup truck — the ice arrived at the synagogue just after noon.

It melted rapidly in the 60-degree room, dripping audibly into the deep basin and slowly filling it in the days that followed. After some water evaporated, Mr. Thorndike had to deliver a few more blocks, to ensure the mikvah contained the ton of living water required by Jewish law. But by the middle of March, the mikvah was ready.

On a Sunday afternoon two weeks after the ice harvest, Lucia Greene, 18, a Colby student, became the first to complete her conversion to Judaism in the mikvah, descending its seven steps — representing the seven days of creation described in the Torah — and immersing herself within its filtered, heated waters.

The milestone felt surreal, she said — and also “too soon,” even after nearly two years of preparation.

“But I’d been feeling Jewish for a while,” she said. “And when that’s how you feel, it’s time to go into the mikvah.”

Jenna Russell is the lead reporter covering New England for The Times. She is based near Boston. More about Jenna Russell

Across the Country

We’re exploring how america defines itself one place at a time..

Beaufort, N.C.: The Bodacious Belles, a locally famous group of rambunctious retirees, shows the difference a network of support can make in an aging America .

Minnesota: Saunas in the state, part of a tradition with roots in the 1800s, have been especially popular  since the pandemic as more people seek a communal experience.

Metairie, La.: A tire shop parking lot has become a popular destination for those craving a king cake, a Mardi Gras delicacy. The only problem: Which variety to choose ?

New England: Across New England, 700 towns once handed out ceremonial canes to their oldest residents. In some places, the honor endures  — for those willing to accept it, that is.

Sunland Park, N.M.: The New Mexico bedroom community has become a marijuana boomtown thanks to cannabis buyers from Texas. But the good times may not last forever .

The Rio Grande Valley: On the Mexican border in Texas, folk healers known as curanderas  bring modern touches to an ancient practice long revered in local Hispanic culture.


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  22. College Students in Maine Explore a New Take On an Ancient Jewish

    Ms. Childers, who traveled to Maine for the ice harvest, oversees a national network of "open" mikv'ot (the plural of mikvah), providing guidance on construction, training sessions and text ...