attack

verb
at·​tack | \ə-ˈtak \
attacked; attacking; attacks

Definition of attack 

(Entry 1 of 3)

transitive verb

1 : to set upon or work against forcefully attack an enemy fortification

2 : to assail with unfriendly or bitter words a politician verbally attacked by critics

3 : to begin to affect or to act on injuriously plants attacked by aphids

4a : to set to work on attack a problem

b : to begin to eat (food) eagerly At the table he attacked his meal with such singleminded ferocity as to be, as Boswell put it, disgusting to those whose sensations were delicate.— Donald R. DeGlopper

5 chess : to threaten (a piece) with immediate capture

intransitive verb

: to make an attack They were unprepared when the enemy attacked.

attack

noun
plural attacks

Definition of attack (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : the act of attacking with physical force or unfriendly words : assault the victim of a knife attack a verbal attack

2 : a belligerent or antagonistic action launched an attack against his political opponents

3a : a fit of sickness especially : an active episode of a chronic or recurrent disease an attack of bronchitis

b : a period of being strongly affected by something (such as a desire or mood) an attack of the jitters

c : an aggressive attempt to take or extend a lead over others in a race (such as a bicycle race) … he crushed his rivals in the first mountain stages by going on relatively long solo attacks.— Samuel Abt

4a : an offensive or scoring action won the game with an 8-hit attack

b : offensive players or the positions taken up by them

5 : the setting to work on some undertaking made a new attack on the problem a new plan of attack

6 : the beginning of destructive action (as by a chemical agent)

7 music : the act or manner of beginning a musical tone or phrase

on the attack

: making an attack The soldiers were on the attack. often used in the phrase go on the attack with the meaning "to begin attacking" Last week he challenged Bradley to debate him and went on the attack, accusing his challenger of "disloyalty" to the party …— Matt Bai

under attack

: in the process of being attacked soldiers under attack a politician who is under attack from his opponents often used in the phrase come under attack with the meaning "to begin being attacked" a theory that has recent come under attack

attack

adjective

Definition of attack (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : designed, planned, or used for carrying out a military attack an attack helicopter

2 : expressing or involving aggressively negative and harsh criticism of someone (such as a political opponent) attack ads Early in my magazine career, I at times participated in a form of attack journalism that today fills me with remorse—picking a target and sending out a reporter to bring back the scalp.— Daniel Okrent

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Other Words from attack

Verb

attacker noun plural attackers

Choose the Right Synonym for attack

Verb

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

Examples of attack in a Sentence

Verb

He attacked the guard with a knife. Troops attacked the fortress at dawn. The troops attacked at dawn. People are attacking the mayor for breaking campaign promises. The professor has been widely attacked for her position on the issue. Did you see the way the kids attacked that pizza?

Noun

The immune system is the body's defense against attack by germs. The spray protects plants from attacks by many common pests. The surprise attack came at dawn. There is a threat of nuclear attack. There have been many attacks against the professor for her position on the issue. The newspaper editorial is an attack on policy-makers.

Adjective

The bombers were in attack formation.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Regulators have attacked the banking system’s symptoms without addressing the root of its ills: implicit state guarantees and interest rate controls. Nathaniel Taplin, WSJ, "Why China’s Deleveraging Has Faltered," 23 Nov. 2018 Republicans have attacked Espy over his corruption scandal. Dylan Scott, Vox, "The Mississippi Senate runoff, Dems’ last chance for one more 2018 upset, explained," 20 Nov. 2018 Another researcher involved in the project, Dr. Nava Tintarev of Delft University of Technology in Holland, has also attacked Trump on Twitter. Fox News, "Twitter brings in anti-Trump academics to combat intolerance," 2 Oct. 2018 Information will also be provided about legal rights should they be attacked on or off campus and about self-defense skills. Michelle Mullins, Naperville Sun, "Naperville News Digest," 13 July 2018 Then police gave medical aid to the male and located another victim who had been attacked, a female inside the home. Jennifer Baker, Cincinnati.com, "Police shoot, kill pit bull after 2 attacked in NKY," 13 July 2018 Since Ford came forward she has been attacked by Kavanaugh supporters, including the President's son, Donald Trump Jr., who posted an image mocking Ford on Instagram. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "Julia Louis Dreyfus Signs a Letter Supporting Christine Blasey Ford," 18 Sep. 2018 What happens is that the body attacks the pancreatic cells that are responsible for making insulin, Dr. Hirsch says. Colleen Stinchcombe, Woman's Day, "What's the Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes?," 10 Sep. 2018 At 9:37 am on 9/11, 51 minutes after the first plane hit the World Trade Center, the Pentagon was similarly attacked. Popular Mechanics Editors, Popular Mechanics, "Debunking the Myths About the 9/11 Attack on the Pentagon," 10 Sep. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Despite nearly constant political attacks on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Marketplace coverage (often referred to as Obamacare) has endured. Sarah Jacoby, SELF, "Heads Up: You Can Still Sign Up for Obamacare and Open Enrollment Is Going On Right Now," 14 Nov. 2018 Beta-lactam works by weakening the cell wall of the creature under attack. Jonathon Keats, Discover Magazine, "Bacteria That Eat Drugs Could Help Solve the Antibiotic Resistance Crisis," 8 Nov. 2018 From October 25th to November 23rd Carrier Strike Group Eight will participate in Trident Juncture, a NATO exercise designed to simulate rapidly reinforcing a member country under attack. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "U.S. Carriers Are Operating in the Arctic Circle for the First Time in Decades," 22 Oct. 2018 In an article in Asheville publication The Mountain Xpress, some senators expressed confusion about the amendment, since hunting and fishing don’t seem to be under attack in the state. Cady Drell, Marie Claire, "Environmental Measures on the 2018 Midterm Election Ballots You Should Know About," 18 Oct. 2018 Ever wonder what would happen to the U.S. leadership and the nuclear missile arsenal if the nation was under attack? Allison Barrie, Fox News, "Meet the new Air Force helicopters that can 'defy Armageddon'," 27 Sep. 2018 While Ford is the one actually under the attack of credible death threats and violent vitriol, Kavanaugh is the person with all the protections of the government. Abby Gardner, Glamour, "Death Threats and Discrediting: The Treatment of Christine Blasey Ford Is a Reminder of What's at Stake for Sexual Assault Survivors," 21 Sep. 2018 Asparagus beetles, which chew on spears in spring and attack summer foliage, are the most prevalent problem. The Editors, Good Housekeeping, "How to Grow Garden-Fresh Asparagus," 19 Aug. 2018 Since then, numerous variants of these attacks have been devised. Peter Bright, Ars Technica, "Spectre, Meltdown researchers unveil 7 more speculative execution attacks," 14 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

While there was clearly an undercurrent of resistance to the current administration in Washington, winners did not overtly attack President Trump. Jocelyn Noveck, The Christian Science Monitor, "Social issues take center stage at Tony Awards," 11 June 2018 Then another idea: Attack forces of evil not persons doing evil. Annie Sweeney, chicagotribune.com, "Nonviolence is a choice: Group's message of peace seeks footing in tough Chicago neighborhood," 25 May 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'attack.' 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 attack

Verb

circa 1576, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Noun

1655, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective

1686, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for attack

Verb

Middle French attaquer, from Old Italian *estaccare to attach, from stacca stake, of Germanic origin; akin to Old English staca

Noun

see attack entry 1

Adjective

see attack entry 1

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Statistics for attack

Last Updated

1 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for attack

The first known use of attack was circa 1576

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More Definitions for attack

attack

verb

English Language Learners Definition of attack

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: to act violently against (someone or something) : to try to hurt, injure, or destroy (something or someone)

: to criticize (someone or something) in a very harsh and severe way

: to begin to work on or deal with (something, such as a problem) in a determined and eager way

attack

noun

English Language Learners Definition of attack (Entry 2 of 3)

: a violent, harmful, or destructive act against someone or something

: harmful or destructive action against something by a disease, insect, chemical, etc.

: an attempt by a military force to defeat an enemy : a military offensive

attack

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of attack (Entry 3 of 3)

: designed for or used in a military attack

attack

verb
at·​tack | \ə-ˈtak \
attacked; attacking

Kids Definition of attack

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to take strong action against : try to hurt, injure, or destroy Troops attacked the fortress at dawn.

2 : to use harsh words against : criticize harshly People attacked the plan as being too complicated.

3 : to begin to affect or to act upon harmfully A disease attacked our crops.

4 : to start to work on in a determined and eager way She attacked the problem.

Other Words from attack

attacker noun

attack

noun

Kids Definition of attack (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a violent, harmful, or destructive act against someone or something a shark attack

2 : strong criticism a verbal attack

3 : the setting to work on some undertaking They made a new attack on the problem.

4 : a sudden short period of suffering from an illness or of being affected by a strong emotion an asthma attack an attack of nerves

at·​tack | \ə-ˈtak \

Medical Definition of attack 

(Entry 1 of 2)

: to begin to affect or to act on injuriously tumors attacked the kidneys attacked by a fever

attack

noun

Medical Definition of attack (Entry 2 of 2)

: a fit of sickness especially : an active episode of a chronic or recurrent disease

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attack

noun
at·​tack

Legal Definition of attack 

: an attempt to prove something invalid or incorrect especially through judicial procedures made an attack on the will as not properly witnessed specifically : an attempt to have the judgment of a court corrected or overruled

collateral attack

: an attack on a judgment made during or by a proceeding brought for a different purpose — see also habeas corpus ad subjiciendum at habeas corpus

direct attack

: an attack on a judgment made in a proceeding (as an appeal) brought for the specific purpose of having the judgment corrected or overturned

Other Words from attack

attack verb

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More from Merriam-Webster on attack

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with attack

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for attack

Spanish Central: Translation of attack

Nglish: Translation of attack for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of attack for Arabic Speakers

Comments on attack

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