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

Many commentators said, in attacking his hosts, the interview had ignored all the usual diplomatic etiquette and conventions. Alex Ritman, The Hollywood Reporter, "Thousands Turn Out to Protest Donald Trump in London," 13 July 2018 The rare cancer attacked his temporal bone, cranial nerve and inner ear. Makayla Tendall, ajc, "'See ya later, suckas!': Family writes unique obituary for 5-year-old cancer victim," 13 July 2018 Both men allegedly attacked the player, identified by BC as Kevin Lohan, during an altercation at a Boston pizza shop during the early morning hours of Jan. 19, according to authorities. Travis Andersen, BostonGlobe.com, "2 indicted in assault on Boston College hockey player," 12 July 2018 Lace bugs attack a variety of shrubs and trees causing leaves to turn light brown or tan. Neil Sperry, star-telegram, "The tough half of the gardening marathon is ahead. Here's how to finish strong," 6 July 2018 Lester Louis Jones attacked a homeless woman sleeping underneath the eaves of a West Sacramento library on Merkley Avenue in the early hours of March 24. Adesuwa Agbonile, sacbee, "He tried to rape a homeless woman outside a library. Now, he faces prison time," 5 July 2018 But the shock was because of the nature of the workplace that was attacked, not that the attack occurred. Dan Rodricks, baltimoresun.com, "Where have you gone, Mister Rogers?," 13 July 2018 Tanya Mitchell Graham, a lawyer for Delicia Cordon, who dated and lived with McCoy previously, said in a statement that her client was attacked at 3 a.m. on Tuesday by a male assailant who entered McCoy and Cordon's Georgia home. NBC News, "NFL player LeSean McCoy's estranged ex-girlfriend attacked during home invasion," 11 July 2018 Eventually, the first officer, Connor, documented what happened, but said that Irizzary was not being attacked. Natalie Dreier, ajc, "Man harasses woman wearing Puerto Rico flag shirt," 11 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

In its first public attack of the #InvestInEd income tax measure, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry called out one of the teachers involved in the campaign for attending a socialism conference in Chicago. Ricardo Cano, azcentral, "Name-calling begins in battle over #InvestInEd ballot measure," 12 July 2018 His ahead-of-his-time aerial attack helped turn Gibson into a college star, and eventual College Football Hall of Famer. Shawn Windsor, Detroit Free Press, "Who was Darryl Rogers? An offensive innovator with an acerbic wit," 12 July 2018 Brown was arrested in Tampa last week on an outstanding warrant tied to his alleged attack on a club photographer. Gil Kaufman, Billboard, "Chris Brown Pleads Not Guilty to Battery Charge From 2017 Nightclub Incident," 12 July 2018 While Trump is using the trip to demand that NATO allies spend more on their own defense, trade and economics also played major roles in his rhetorical attack Wednesday on Germany. David Jackson, USA TODAY, "Even at NATO summit, President Trump presses trade complaints about Europe," 11 July 2018 Olivier Giroud was then recruited from London rivals Arsenal in January to help share the goal-scoring burden, but there remains an ongoing sense that Chelsea are still without an outstanding focal point to lead their attack next season. SI.com, "Chelsea Miss Out on Colombian Attacker to Atalanta Despite Him Being Offered to Conte's Side," 11 July 2018 His attack on Germany as beholden to Russia, because of a pipeline project, was in keeping with Trump’s practice of accusing others of behavior he has been accused of. Eli Stokols, latimes.com, "Trump disrupts NATO summit with blasts at allies, especially Germany, and new defense spending demands," 11 July 2018 For all their menacing attacks, the Seleção lacked penetration and rarely stretched Courtois. James Taylor, Pro Soccer USA, "Brazil 1-2 Belgium: Red Devils Shatter Brazil’s Dreams With Clinical Display to Set Up France Clash," 6 July 2018 And now, Chucky, the living doll, will have to withstand his most brutal attack yet. Richard Newby, The Hollywood Reporter, "What Could Be Lost with a 'Child's Play' Remake," 5 July 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

6 Oct 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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Comments on attack

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