verb as·sail \ ə-ˈsāl \
|Updated on: 12 Aug 2018

Definition of assail

assailed; assailing; assails
: to attack violently
  • Critics assailed his new book.
  • a politician assailed by the media
often used figuratively
  • She was assailed by doubts.
  • A horrible odor assailed our noses. [=we smelled a horrible odor]


play \-ˈsā-lə-bəl\ adjective


play \-ˈsā-lənt\ noun

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Recent Examples of assail from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'assail.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Did You Know?

Assail comes from an Anglo-French verb, assaillir, which itself traces back to the Latin verb assilire ("to leap upon"). "Assilire" combines the prefix ad- ("to, toward") with the Latin verb salire, meaning "to leap." When "assail" was first used in the 13th century, it meant "to make a violent physical attack upon." By the 1500s, English speakers were using the term to mean "to attack with words or arguments."

Origin and Etymology of assail

Middle English, from Anglo-French assaillir, from Vulgar Latin *assalire, alteration of Latin assilire to leap upon, from ad- + salire to leap — more at sally

assail Synonyms

Near Antonyms

cover, defend, guard, protect, secure, shield;


beat up on, fly at, go at, light into, pitch into, round on, set at, set upon, tear into;

Synonym Discussion of assail

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

ASSAIL Defined for Kids


verb as·sail \ ə-ˈsāl \

Definition of assail for Students

assailed; assailing
1 : to attack violently or angrily with blows or words
  • His plan was assailed by critics.
2 : to be troubled or bothered by
  • assailed by doubts
  • A horrible odor assailed my nose.

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