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

The senator grilled the Harvard Law School professor, defending his state’s legal process and assailing her critique of its bankruptcy laws. Ephrat Livni, Quartz, "Biden vs Warren: The epic showdown that didn’t happen," 12 Sep. 2019 WildEarth Guardians has assailed the practice of allowing companies to drill and operate a new well for 90 days before getting a permit that limits emissions from industrial sites. Judith Kohler, The Denver Post, "Colorado toughened up its oil and gas rules. But how tough are they?," 11 Aug. 2019 In speech after speech, the candidates focused their fire on assailing President Trump and Republicans for their lack of action on gun control and abetting white supremacy — rather than focusing their fire on each other. New York Times, "At Iowa’s Wing Ding Dinner, Democrats Assail G.O.P. on Gun Control," 9 Aug. 2019 Democrats chided Republicans for putting party loyalty to Trump over the rule of law – even by assailing their own former colleague. The Washington Post, The Mercury News, "House panel OKs subpoena for Conway after she spurns hearing," 26 June 2019 The policy, assailed by critics for making families and young children wait in violent Mexico border cities, has become a key piece of the U.S. response to a large increase in asylum-seeking families, especially from Central America. Washington Post, "Tent courts set to open on border for US asylum seekers," 10 Sep. 2019 As the first commercial post-9/11 feature, it was assailed as distasteful before its release. Tom Mashberg, New York Times, "After Sept. 11, Twin Towers Onscreen Are a Tribute and a Painful Reminder," 10 Sep. 2019 Miserable day for Johnson Johnson endured a torrid session of Prime Minister's Questions, the first of his premiership, when he was assailed by all sides. Rob Picheta, Ivana Kottasová And Nina Dos Santos, CNN, "Boris Johnson fails in high stakes attempt to call snap general election," 4 Sep. 2019 The Bell Curve,’’ the controversial 1994 book by right-leaning psychologist Richard Herrnstein and political scientist Charles Murray assailed by critics on the left as an endorsement of racial prejudice. Steven Litt, cleveland.com, "An urgent look at 400 years of history: ‘Black Atlantic’ exhibit in Oberlin explores impact of slavery," 25 Aug. 2019

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

7 Oct 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

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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