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. ommandos 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 Our answer to the problems that assail us is activation of the vision of a vibrant, accountable, inclusive community where dreams are fulfilled. Gail Rosenblum, Star Tribune, "Minneapolis Stairstep Foundation leader sees opportunities to rebuild in this difficult time," 16 Oct. 2020 The Democratic nominee will need to strike the right tone, making sure not to appear to revel in his opponent’s illness while continuing to assail the president’s attitude and policies toward the virus. Justin Sink, Bloomberg.com, "Trump’s Covid-19 Diagnosis Reshapes Election a Month From Vote," 2 Oct. 2020 President Trump used a virtual speech at the United Nations General Assembly to assail China on Tuesday, blaming Beijing for the coronavirus pandemic that has stricken the world while weighing on the global economy. William Mauldin, WSJ, "Trump Criticizes China for Covid-19 Response in United Nations Speech," 22 Sep. 2020 Ancient Cynics, in a kind of perverse altruism, embraced extreme poverty, the better to credibly assail the complacent with their radical social critique. Daniel Akst, WSJ, "‘Cynicism’ and ‘The Function of Cynicism at the Present Time’ Review: When Nothing Is Good Enough," 2 Sep. 2020 Trump did not hesitate to use the country's birthday as an occasion to assail segments of the country that do not support him. The Christian Science Monitor, "July 4th: Trump vows to safeguard US from leftists and looters," 5 July 2020 Trump did not hesitate to use the country's birthday as an occasion to assail segments of the country that do not support him. The Christian Science Monitor, "July 4th: Trump vows to safeguard US from leftists and looters," 5 July 2020 Religious authorities, including the archbishop of West Arsi, Abune Henok, have gone on to claim that some have exploited the moment to also assail Orthodox Christians, who make up just under 40 percent of the population. Fox News, "Ethiopian government restores Internet after weeks of blackout during deadly protests," 24 July 2020 Trump did not hesitate to use the country's birthday as an occasion to assail segments of the country that do not support him. The Christian Science Monitor, "July 4th: Trump vows to safeguard US from leftists and looters," 5 July 2020

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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Time Traveler for assail

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for assail

Last Updated

26 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Assail.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/assail. Accessed 26 Nov. 2020.

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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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