verb (used with object), tried, try·ing.

  1. to attempt to do or accomplish: Try it before you say it’s simple.
  2. to test the effect or result of (often followed by out): to try a new method; to try a recipe out.
  3. to endeavor to evaluate by experiment or experience: to try a new field; to try a new book.
  4. to test the quality, value, fitness, accuracy, etc., of: Will you try a spoonful of this and tell me what you think of it?
  5. Law. to examine and determine judicially, as a cause; determine judicially the guilt or innocence of (a person).
  6. to put to a severe test; subject to strain, as of endurance, patience, affliction, or trouble; tax: to try one’s patience.
  7. to attempt to open (a door, window, etc.) in order to find out whether it is locked: Try all the doors before leaving.
  8. to melt down (fat, blubber, etc.) to obtain the oil; render (usually followed by out).
  9. Archaic.
    1. to determine the truth or right of (a quarrel or question) by test or battle (sometimes followed by out).
    2. to find to be right by test or experience.

verb (used without object), tried, try·ing.

  1. to make an attempt or effort; strive: Try to complete the examination.
  2. Nautical. to lie to in heavy weather under just sufficient sail to head into the wind.

noun, plural tries.

  1. an attempt or effort: to have a try at something.
  2. Rugby. a score of three points earned by advancing the ball to or beyond the opponents’ goal line.

Verb Phrases

  1. try on, to put on an article of clothing in order to judge its appearance and fit: You can’t really tell how it will look until you try it on.
  2. try out, to use experimentally; test: to try out a new car.
  3. try out for, to compete for (a position, membership, etc.): Over a hundred boys came to try out for the football team.
  1. give it the old college try, Informal. to make a sincere effort: I gave it the old college try and finally found an apartment.
  2. try it/that on, Chiefly British Informal.
    1. to put on airs: She’s been trying it on ever since the inheritance came through.
    2. to be forward or presumptuous, especially with a member of the opposite sex: She avoided him after he’d tried it on with her.

verb tries, trying or tried

  1. (when tr, may take an infinitive, sometimes with to replaced by and) to make an effort or attempthe tried to climb a cliff
  2. (tr often foll by out) to sample, test, or give experimental use to (something) in order to determine its quality, worth, etctry her cheese flan
  3. (tr) to put strain or stress onhe tries my patience
  4. (tr; often passive) to give pain, affliction, or vexation to: I have been sorely tried by those children
    1. to examine and determine the issues involved in (a cause) in a court of law
    2. to hear evidence in order to determine the guilt or innocence of (an accused)
    3. to sit as judge at the trial of (an issue or person)
  5. (tr) to melt (fat, lard, etc) in order to separate out impurities
  6. (tr usually foll by out) obsolete to extract (a material) from an ore, mixture, etc, usually by heat; refine

noun plural tries

  1. an experiment or trial
  2. an attempt or effort
  3. rugby the act of an attacking player touching the ball down behind the opposing team’s goal line, scoring five or, in Rugby League, four points
  4. Also called: try for a point American football an attempt made after a touchdown to score an extra point by kicking a goal or, for two extra points, by running the ball or completing a pass across the opponents’ goal line

c.1300, “examine judiciously, sit in judgment of,” from Anglo-French trier (late 13c.), from Old French trier “to pick out, cull” (12c.), from Gallo-Romance *triare, of unknown origin. The ground sense is “separate out (the good) by examination.” Meaning “to test” is first recorded mid-14c.; that of “attempt to do” is from early 14c. Sense of “to subject to some strain” (of patience, endurance, etc.) is recorded from 1530s. Trying “distressing” is first attested 1718. To try (something) on for size in the figurative sense is recorded from 1956.


  1. tryptophan

In addition to the idioms beginning with try

  • try on
  • try one’s hand
  • try one’s patience
  • try out

also see:

  • old college try

Also see undertried.

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