attack

verb
at·​tack | \ ə-ˈtak How to pronounce attack (audio) \
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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, most recently, has been rightfully attacked for his shameful handling of a plea deal with billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein while serving as U.S. attorney for Florida’s southern district. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Nancy Pelosi Has Power—She Just Doesn’t Want to Use It," 11 July 2019 The Tylers were attacked in their Darien home on July 2, 1985 in what police believed was a burglary gone bad. Dave Altimari, courant.com, "Forensic scientist Henry Lee challenged in another murder case as Darien man seeks new trial claiming inaccurate testimony led to wrongful conviction," 10 July 2019 The destroyer on which D'Amelio served was attacked off the coast of Guadalcanal a year earlier, according to KOLD. Fox News, "Purple Heart medal discovered at Goodwill in Arizona, prompting search for family," 10 July 2019 Many ulema scholars have been attacked by the Taliban for expressing religious views contrary to those of the insurgents. David Zucchino, New York Times, "Seeking Revenge, Taliban Target Afghan Soldiers’ Families," 10 July 2019 My parents and sister are being verbally attacked in public. Ashley Boucher, PEOPLE.com, "Jed Wyatt's Sister Lily Says She Looks 'So Mean' in the Bachelorette Hometown Date Episode," 10 July 2019 When women are not being blamed for the deaths of the men in their lives, they are being attacked for not grieving properly. Lisawhill, Longreads, "Live Through This: Courtney Love at 55," 9 July 2019 My parents and sister are being verbally attacked in public. Julyssa Lopez, Glamour, "Jed From The Bachelorette Just Spoke Out About Those Cheating Rumors," 9 July 2019 He was attacked 300 yards south of Newcomb Hollow Beach. BostonGlobe.com, "For the record," 8 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Artificial intelligence is already being used to defend networks but is rumored to also be in use for automated attacks. Richard A. Clarke And Robert K. Knake, WSJ, "U.S. Companies Learn to Defend Themselves in Cyberspace," 12 July 2019 When Iran shot down an unmanned U.S. surveillance drone in June, the United States even drew up plans for a retaliatory attack. Adam Taylor, Washington Post, "U.S. allies risk becoming collateral damage in Iran fight," 12 July 2019 His investments in private prisons and coal mining at his hedge fund could easily become fodder for campaign attacks. David Lauter, latimes.com, "As Trump retreats on census, outlines of next battle come into focus," 12 July 2019 Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mojahid denied responsibility for the attack in a message to media on Friday. Ehsan Popalzai, CNN, "Minor kills five, injures 40 in suicide attack at Afghan wedding," 12 July 2019 Congress, meanwhile, is debating whether to finally end the legal authorization for these wars, originally intended to retaliate for the 9/11 attacks and since used to authorize wars in seven countries. Tim Fernholz, Quartz, "Two-thirds of veterans say the Iraq war wasn’t worth fighting," 10 July 2019 The guard mistook the man’s shaking for an attack on a nurse. Adam Ferrise, cleveland.com, "Woman punched, pepper-sprayed in restraint chair by Cuyahoga County Jail officers sues county," 10 July 2019 Democrats have prepared briefing books of more than 1,000 pages on McConnell, whose long record and ties to Washington interest groups provide ripe openings for attack. Michael Tackett, BostonGlobe.com, "Amy McGrath to challenge Mitch McConnell for Ky. US Senate seat," 9 July 2019 That foothold ultimately came in the second half, when Nani subbed in to provide a vital spark for the Orlando attack. Julia Poe, Pro Soccer USA, "Orlando City grinds out 2-2 draw in rescheduled Philadelphia match," 8 July 2019

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.

See More

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, Noun, and Adjective

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about attack

Statistics for attack

Last Updated

14 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for attack

The first known use of attack was circa 1576

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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 How to pronounce attack (audio) \
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 How to pronounce attack (audio) \

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

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

WORD OF THE DAY

food or victuals

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

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

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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