as·​sail | \ə-ˈsāl \
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 \-​ˈsā-​lə-​bəl \ adjective
assailant \-​ˈsā-​lənt \ 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

Puerto Rico was seized or assailed by the English, French and Dutch, then abandoned and returned to Spain. The Economist, "America has let down its Puerto Rican citizens," 12 Apr. 2018 Some of Turkey’s problems reflect the troubles assailing emerging markets in general. New York Times, "Turkey’s Economy Is So Hot That It May Face a Meltdown," 10 July 2018 Monsanto, often assailed for its impact on the earth and on human health, will shed its moniker after German giant Bayer officially acquires the company on June 7. Nathan Bomey, USA TODAY, "Monsanto shedding name: Bayer acquisition leads to change for environmental lightning rod," 4 June 2018 But Trump quickly stepped in and suspended the decision after it was assailed by conservation and animal rights groups. Dartunorro Clark, NBC News, "In reversal, Trump administration won’t ban import of African elephant trophies," 6 Mar. 2018 Paterson went further in her description of a man who has assailed black athletes and entertainers for protesting police brutality. Otis R. Taylor Jr., San Francisco Chronicle, "This Week in White Supremacy tracks battle for racial justice," 19 Feb. 2018 At his federal trial on obstruction-of-justice charges in 2016, former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka was assailed by prosecutors for being a tattooed member of the Vikings. Joel Rubin,, "After decades of problems, new allegations surface of a secret clique within L.A. County Sheriff's Department," 10 July 2018 This line of thinking becomes a problem in this post-truth era when the president actively attempts to discredit legitimate news-gathering organizations and facts are constantly being assailed by the powerful. Bijan Stephen, The Verge, "The gospel of Elon Musk, according to his flock," 26 June 2018 Eight caucus members, all Democrats, have been assailed by a range of critics, including liberals and conservatives, for having ties to Farrakhan, mainly in the form of meetings with him on several occasions. Elizabeth Llorente, Fox News, "Farrakhan supporters plan White House protest in test of mainstream black leaders," 28 Mar. 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

18 Nov 2018

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 \
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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to enclose within walls

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