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

Critics assailed it on social media as a new tool for top colleges to move farther away from admission based purely on objective achievement. John Woolfolk, The Mercury News, "College Board modifies controversial SAT ‘adversity score’ after criticism," 27 Aug. 2019 And the Republicans who assailed it have so far been unable to come up with an alternative. Jess Bidgood, BostonGlobe.com, "Health care unified Democrats in 2018. Now it’s dividing them," 18 July 2019 Supporters welcomed his tribute to the U.S. military while protesters assailed him for putting himself center stage on a holiday devoted to unity. Darlene Superville, Time, "President Trump Stays Mostly On-Script and off Politics at Fourth of July 'Salute to America'," 4 July 2019 Critics have assailed the limits on OSHA’s power to crack down on dangerous workplaces for years. Christopher Leonard, ProPublica, "Rising Profits, Rising Injuries: The Safety Crisis at Koch Industries’ Georgia-Pacific," 8 Aug. 2019 The notes that come out of his career never assail your ears; the caress them. Chuck Yarborough, cleveland.com, "Santana and the Doobie Brothers bring a little rock ‘n’ roll history to Blossom Music Center," 8 Aug. 2019 Now, unfortunately, the president is trying to assail our walls of scientific knowledge. Jim Daley, Scientific American, "Brazil’s Sacked Space Director Speaks Out on Attacks on Science," 7 Aug. 2019 Radical, unworkable, fantastic, irresponsible: That’s how a handful of Democratic candidates assailed the Medicare for All plan proposed by the front-runners at last night’s debate. Tim Fernholz, Quartz, "A reminder to B-list Democratic candidates: The US has a bad health care system," 30 July 2019 If Democrats do take the House, their leaders will be under tremendous pressure to assail and obstruct Trump at every turn. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "Midterms will mold Dems' 2020 field," 19 July 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 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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Last Updated

9 Sep 2019

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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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