ac·​cost ə-ˈkȯst How to pronounce accost (audio)
accosted; accosting; accosts

transitive verb

: to approach and speak to (someone) in an often challenging or aggressive way
He was accosted by a stranger on the street.

Examples of accost in a Sentence

He was accosted by three gang members on the subway. She was so famous that people would accost her on the street and ask for an autograph.
Recent Examples on the Web After climbing mountains and crisscrossing rivers in their quest to reach the United States, their group was accosted by a half-dozen men in ski masks, holding long guns and issuing threats. Julie Turkewitz Federico Rios, New York Times, 4 Apr. 2024 In that incident, the victim was accosted by two men who demanded valuables. Jakob Rodgers, The Mercury News, 28 Mar. 2024 Sue Ann Asch, from Kalkaska, Mich., has been charged with accosting children for immoral purposes, online court records show. Samira Asma-Sadeque, Peoplemag, 1 Feb. 2024 But, the driver said, Mr. Trump never lunged for the steering wheel or physically accosted the agents, contradicting the most sensational and hotly disputed elements of testimony given to the House Jan. 6 committee by a White House aide. Luke Broadwater, New York Times, 11 Mar. 2024 On Friday evening, Hamlin allegedly approached the victim on the subway and accosted him with bigoted statements, the statement said. Samira Asma-Sadeque, Peoplemag, 7 Mar. 2024 Over in the Foregate, Rand goes about his duties in the psych ward, helping a sick old veteran go for a walk… until the poor guy is accosted by a cruel aide. Alex Raiman,, 1 Sep. 2023 Behar said she was forced to verbally accost a locomotive employee because the woman wouldn't let Behar, who had a coach-class ticket, use an exclusive bathroom aboard the craft. Joey Nolfi,, 18 Dec. 2023 Monkeys, music, modern art, marble: stepping into the high-ceilinged entrance hall of Cordelia de Castellane’s Paris apartment, one is accosted by all four. Ellie Pithers, Vogue, 20 Feb. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'accost.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from Middle French accoster, going back to Old French, "to go alongside of, sail along the coast of, place (a vessel) beside another" (sʼacoster a "to take a place beside, draw near, support"), probably going back to Vulgar Latin *accostāre, from Latin ad- ad- + costa "rib, side" — more at coast entry 1

Note: A common, polysemous verb in Anglo-French, though the English verb, which only begins to appear in the late 16th century, is apparently borrowed directly from Continental French. The sense "to approach and speak to" only appears in French in the early 17th century, about the same time that it appears in English.

First Known Use

1567, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of accost was in 1567

Dictionary Entries Near accost

Cite this Entry

“Accost.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


ac·​cost ə-ˈkȯst How to pronounce accost (audio)
: to approach and speak to often in a challenging or aggressive way

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