attack

1 of 3

verb

at·​tack ə-ˈtak How to pronounce attack (audio)
attacked; attacking; attacks

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
4
a
: 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.
attacker noun
plural attackers

attack

2 of 3

noun

plural attacks
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
3
a
: 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
4
a
: 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

attack

3 of 3

adjective

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
Phrases
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
Choose the Right Synonym for attack

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.
Recent Examples on the Web
Verb
Human remains have been found by police searching for a 12-year-old child who went missing after reportedly being attacked by a crocodile in Australia. Becca Longmire, Peoplemag, 4 July 2024 Fletcher and Randle were just children when violent white mobs attacked their Greenwood District Neighborhood, which was so successful it was known as Black Wall Street. Kizzy Cox, Essence, 4 July 2024
Noun
Vicki Jan, who lost both parents and an aunt and uncle in a 2011 terrorist attack, joined the trip to offer, and receive, support. Jns Staff Report, Sun Sentinel, 5 July 2024 Last month, three people were injured on the same day from shark attacks. Taylor Ardrey, USA TODAY, 5 July 2024
Adjective
How common is the multi-attack ransomware threat? Davey Winder, Forbes, 13 Aug. 2022 Among its findings are that most attackers exhibit indicators of pre-attack behavior. Brooke Baitinger, Sun Sentinel, 15 June 2022 See all Example Sentences for attack 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'attack.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Verb, Noun, and Adjective

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

First Known Use

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

Time Traveler
The first known use of attack was circa 1576

Dictionary Entries Near attack

Cite this Entry

“Attack.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/attack. Accessed 16 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition

attack

1 of 2 verb
at·​tack ə-ˈtak How to pronounce attack (audio)
1
: to take strong action against
the dog attacked a skunk
2
: to use unfriendly or bitter words against
3
: to begin to cause something harmful or destructive to happen to
attacked by fever
4
: to start work on
attack a problem
attacker noun

attack

2 of 2 noun
1
: the act or action of attacking : assault
2
: a beginning of work on something (as a problem or project)
3
: a spell of sickness
especially : one of a disease that is long-lasting or that tends to occur over and over again

Medical Definition

attack

1 of 2 transitive verb
at·​tack ə-ˈtak How to pronounce attack (audio)
: to begin to affect or to act on injuriously
tumors attacked the kidneys
attacked by a fever

attack

2 of 2 noun
: a fit of sickness
especially : an active episode of a chronic or recurrent disease

Legal Definition

attack

noun
at·​tack
: 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
attack verb

More from Merriam-Webster on attack

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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