assail

verb
as·​sail | \ ə-ˈsāl How to pronounce assail (audio) \
assailed; assailing; assails

Definition of assail

transitive verb

1 : to attack violently : assault The military has for years been developing offensive capabilities, giving it the power not just to defend the US but to assail its foes.— James Bamford
2 : to encounter, undertake, or confront energetically When a lazy man does make up his mind to assail a piece of work, he is like a dog with a bone.— P. G. Wodehouse
3 : to oppose, challenge, or criticize harshly and forcefully a proposal assailed by critics … it is evident that Khrushchev was in trouble at home. The Chinese had also begun to assail him for being soft on the imperialists.— Alexander Darlin
4a : to trouble or afflict in a manner that threatens to overwhelm a man assailed by doubts/fears … but now a terrible fear began to assail me.— Bram Stoker Many diseases stemming from bacterial, fungal and parasitic infections can assail human as well as canine systems.— Tom Ewing
b : to be perceived by (a person, a person's senses, etc.) in a strongly noticeable and usually unpleasant way Here, too, is brought … all the waste stuff of the nation—everything that is subject to rot, and that can add to the foul stench that assails our nostrils.— Edgar Rice Burroughs

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Other Words from assail

assailable \ ə-​ˈsā-​lə-​bəl How to pronounce assailable (audio) \ adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for 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

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."

Examples of assail in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

At the time, critics assailed the Biden and Helms amendments as naked assaults on Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which gives the federal government the power to withhold funding from institutions that discriminate based on race. NBC News, "Biden's mastery of backlash politics takes center stage," 6 July 2019 In the hours before and after leaving for an international summit meeting, Trump assailed Japan, Germany, and India. Peter Baker, BostonGlobe.com, "Heading to G20, Trump once again assails America’s friends," 27 June 2019 Attorneys and relatives of the U.S. tourists assailed efforts by Dominican officials to depict the deaths as an unfortunate twist of fate and promote the country as a desirable vacation spot. Elizabeth Llorente, Fox News, "Dominican tourism official vows 'disciplinary action' if U.S. tourist death probe finds negligence," 22 June 2019 President Donald Trump regularly assails the flow of migrants crossing the Mexican border into the United States. Mary Beth Sheridan, The Seattle Times, "The little-noticed surge across the U.S.-Mexico border: Americans heading south," 21 May 2019 The unprecedented environmental changes assailing the region will compound the challenges of conserving its wildlife and habitats and protecting indigenous peoples’ ways of life. National Geographic, "In the Alaska-Yukon wilderness, wildlife crime fighters face a daunting task," 25 June 2019 Trump has been assailing McCain without any prompting by the media. Calvin Woodward, The Seattle Times, "AP fact check: Trump hails an exoneration not offered," 25 Mar. 2019 If the Fed doesn’t move rapidly to cut rates, Trump will assail him. John Cassidy, The New Yorker, "A Weakening Economy May Be the Biggest Threat to Donald Trump," 8 June 2019 One of those critics has been President Trump, who assailed the protests repeatedly in 2017 and attacked not just the players, but the league for allowing them to continue—placing the NFL in a direct feud with the president. Andrew Beaton, WSJ, "Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid Resolve Collusion Grievances With NFL," 15 Feb. 2019

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.

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First Known Use of assail

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for 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

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Statistics for assail

Last Updated

15 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for assail

The first known use of assail was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for assail

assail

verb
as·​sail | \ ə-ˈsāl How to pronounce assail (audio) \
assailed; assailing

Kids Definition of assail

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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More from Merriam-Webster on assail

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with assail

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for assail

Spanish Central: Translation of assail

Nglish: Translation of assail for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of assail for Arabic Speakers

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