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]

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from assail

assailable \ ə-​ˈsā-​lə-​bəl \ adjective
assailant \ ə-​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

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 In Moscow, authorities charged two men with assailing police. Fox News, "Russian rights group says over 1,000 detained at protests," 10 Sep. 2018 From bankrolling the Tea Party to assailing the Affordable Care Act to waging war against Barack Obama, the Kochs have been a powerful force on the right. Jeff Jacoby,, "Pro-immigrant Republicans, from Lincoln to the Koch brothers," 15 June 2018 Yet the candidates have spent much of their time assailing each other. Arian Campo-flores, WSJ, "In Close Florida Governor’s Race, Candidates Keep Sights on Their Bases," 4 Nov. 2018 Al-Qaida has reduced attacks against Hadi's and Emirati-linked forces because assailing them would benefit the Houthis, Baterfi said. Maggie Michael, Fox News, "'Unite with the devil': Yemen war binds US, allies, al-Qaida," 7 Aug. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about assail

Listen to Our Podcast about assail

Statistics for assail

Last Updated

11 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for assail

The first known use of assail was in the 13th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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.

Keep scrolling for more

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

Comments on assail

What made you want to look up assail? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


very full or close together

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What did you just call me?! A Quiz

  • rows-of-various-emoji
  • If a member of the audience describes your speech as bombastic, does that person mean it is:
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!