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

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 In December, an erroneous CNN report coincided with a Trump rally in Florida, and the president did not miss the opportunity to assail the press. Callum Borchers, Washington Post, "Wiretapping corrections by NBC and ABC bookend a rough week for the media," 4 May 2018 Trump campaigned for the presidency with nativist rhetoric that assailed the threat from outsiders, especially Mexicans and Muslims. Anchorage Daily News, "Trump says he is open to a path to citizenship for ‘Dreamers’," 25 Jan. 2018 But it has been assailed by the FDA as a dangerous and unregulated drug that can result in opioid-like abuse and death. Laurie Mcginley, chicagotribune.com, "FDA orders first-ever recall of a 'contaminated food': kratom with salmonella," 3 Apr. 2018 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, Philly.com, "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

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

3 Jun 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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