Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Medical
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


noun as·sault \ə-ˈsȯlt\

Simple Definition of assault

  • law : the crime of trying or threatening to hurt someone physically

  • : a violent physical attack

  • : a military attack

Full Definition of assault

  1. 1 a :  a violent physical or verbal attack b :  a military attack usually involving direct combat with enemy forces c :  a concerted effort (as to reach a goal or defeat an adversary)

  2. 2 a :  a threat or attempt to inflict offensive physical contact or bodily harm on a person (as by lifting a fist in a threatening manner) that puts the person in immediate danger of or in apprehension of such harm or contact — compare battery 1b b :  rape 2

Examples of assault

  1. She was injured in a brutal assault.

  2. <the body of the murdered woman also showed signs of assault>

Origin of assault

Middle English assaut, from Anglo-French, from Vulgar Latin *assaltus, from assalire

First Known Use: 14th century



verb as·sault

Simple Definition of assault

  • : to violently attack (someone or something)

Full Definition of assault

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 :  to make an assault on

  3. 2 :  rape 2

  4. intransitive verb
  5. :  to make an assault

as·sault·er noun

Examples of assault

  1. He was arrested for assaulting a police officer.

  2. She verbally assaulted one of her coworkers.

  3. Enemy forces assaulted the city.

15th Century

First Known Use of assault

15th century

Synonym Discussion of assault

attack, assail, assault, bombard, storm mean to make an onslaught upon. attack implies taking the initiative in a struggle <plan to attack the town at dawn>. assail implies attempting to break down resistance by repeated blows or shots <assailed the enemy with artillery fire>. assault suggests a direct attempt to overpower by suddenness and violence of onslaught <commandos assaulted the building from all sides>. bombard applies to attacking with bombs or shells <bombarded the city nightly>. storm implies attempting to break into a defended position <preparing to storm the fortress>.

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up assault? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


February 5, 2016

bread traditionally eaten on Shabbat

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


Which of the following refers to thin, bending ice, or to the act of running over such ice?

duvet pince-nez spindrift kittly-benders
Name That Thing

10 quick questions: hear them, spell them, and see how your skills compare to the crowd.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.