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

Definition of assail

transitive verb

: 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]

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Other Words from assail

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

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

Critics assailed Trump for the limited nature of the 2017 attack, which did little to disrupt Syrian air operations or deter the use of chemical weapons, reported repeatedly in the following months. Missy Ryan, Washington Post, "Broad attack on Syria would face risk from air defenses, escalation with Russia," 12 Apr. 2018 The Trump administration’s ever-stricter enforcement policies can seem focused on Latino communities, the president having promised to build a wall at the border with Mexico and assailed immigrants from there, labeling them rapists and drug dealers. Jeff Gammage,, "In South Philly, Tet arrives with joy for the new year - and worry over ICE enforcement," 11 Feb. 2018 Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith was assailed for using a clumsy joke to flatter one of her supporters. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Democrats and Racial Division," 30 Nov. 2018 The ads have been assailed as racist by critics, including dozens of national security experts. Fox News, "Indicted California incumbent steps up attacks on Democrat," 16 Oct. 2018 Privacy advocates have assailed Palantir for its role in helping law-enforcement agencies identify suspects in crimes. Rob Copeland, WSJ, "Secretive Data Company Palantir Weighs Giant Public Offering," 18 Oct. 2018 Trump has assailed some Democratic lawmakers for seeking to abolish ICE ahead of the November midterm elections. Ken Thomas, The Seattle Times, "Trump honors federal immigration officials at White House," 20 Aug. 2018 President Trump and congressional Republicans have repeatedly assailed California for its taxes. Adam Nagourney, New York Times, "How Control of Congress Could Swing on a Fight to Repeal California’s Gas Tax," 6 July 2018 Meanwhile, President Trump—who inflamed the issue last year by assailing the protests as unpatriotic—has been mostly silent on the topic this season. Andrew Beaton, WSJ, "The Outspoken Voice of the NFL Player Protests—and It Isn’t Colin Kaepernick," 13 Nov. 2018

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 above

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

11 Mar 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


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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