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

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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. ommandos 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 Through the years, Trump continued to attack Obamacare and claimed to have a much better plan ready, with promises to cut drug prices and end surprise billing, yet the details were never made public. Oliver Staley, Quartz, "The dystopian, Trumpian future narrowly avoided by America and the planet," 7 Nov. 2020 The vice president continued to attack Biden on health care, claiming that Biden's plan to add a public option to Obamacare will lead to socialism. Caitlin Conant, CBS News, "2020 Daily Trail Markers: Senate Democratic hopefuls are raising serious cash. They're also spending it.," 23 Oct. 2020 One male began beating Unno, followed him, and continued to attack him, causing Unno to fall to the ground. Anna Sturla And Alec Snyder, CNN, "Japanese jazz pianist recovering from surgery after New York subway attack," 11 Oct. 2020 Election security was another issue for debate and Mr. Trump continued to attack mail-in ballots as ripe for fraud. Alex Leary, WSJ, "Trump and Biden’s First Presidential Debate: The Moments That Mattered," 30 Sep. 2020 But despite the disadvantage, the Lions continued to attack. Julia Poe, orlandosentinel.com, "Orlando City holds FC Dallas to scoreless draw despite red card," 27 Sep. 2020 The terrorist group has continued to attack Afghan military targets despite signing a peace deal with the United States in February in order to facilitate the withdrawal of U.S. forces. Zachary Halaschak, Washington Examiner, "Afghan vice president survives after convoy targeted by bomb, at least 10 others dead," 9 Sep. 2020 That vote shattered what few partisan loyalties bound the two men, and Trump has continued to attack McCain for that vote, even posthumously. The Salt Lake Tribune, "Biden slams Trump over alleged comments mocking U.S. war dead," 5 Sep. 2020 That vote shattered what few partisan loyalties bound the two men, and Trump has continued to attack McCain for that vote, even posthumously. Arkansas Online, "Trump denies calling U.S. war dead 'losers,' 'suckers'," 4 Sep. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Another victim was a U.S. mail carrier, and following the attack, the U.S. Postal Service changed the carrier’s route to end before dark, WYCN-LD reported. Danielle Wallace, Fox News, "Massachusetts police search for suspect in string of 10 ‘random, unprovoked’ street attacks," 1 Dec. 2020 Marshall, who is 35 and lives in Los Angeles, said the 2015 incident felt like like a personal attack. Khristopher J. Brooks, CBS News, "For Black workers, an unwelcome workplace focus on their hair," 30 Nov. 2020 Israeli officials have refused to comment on the attack; U.S. officials have also been mum. Deirdre Shesgreen, USA TODAY, "Jared Kushner heads to Middle East amid tensions over Iranian nuclear scientist's killing," 30 Nov. 2020 Baldwin’s 106 yards came as part of a 234-yard performance from Indiana’s rushing attack — 116 yards more than the team’s next best output which came against Michigan three weeks ago. Stefan Krajisnik, The Indianapolis Star, "True freshman Tim Baldwin brings much-needed spark to IU running game," 30 Nov. 2020 Yet The Boys is one of the most amusing shows going, a satiric machine-gun attack on a gallery of cultural icons that have richly earned their drubbing. Kyle Smith, National Review, "The Brilliant, Scabrous Satire of The Boys," 30 Nov. 2020 The attack provoked fury in Iran, breathless headlines around the world, and a lot of speculation about retaliation, which could, in turn, spark a mini-war. Robin Wright, The New Yorker, "Why the Assassination of a Scientist Will Have No Impact on Iran’s Nuclear Program," 30 Nov. 2020 Israel, long suspected of killing Iranian nuclear scientists over the last decade, has declined to comment on the attack. NBC News, "Iran buries slain nuclear scientist and vows to continue his work," 30 Nov. 2020 There were conflicting accounts from Iranian news agencies about how the attack unfolded. Sara Mazloumsaki And Eliott C. Mclaughlin, CNN, "Assassinated Iranian nuclear scientist shot with remote-controlled machine gun, news agency says," 29 Nov. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The Rapids were most successful in 2019 with a pressing and counter-attack style. Jake Shapiro, The Denver Post, "The Rapids are looking to end a playoff drought. Here are 5 keys to get them there," 28 Feb. 2020 But matters weren’t helped by MacArthur’s post-attack grandstanding. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, "Column: After Hoover’s police, like Trump’s, assaulted peaceful protesters, he lost reelection," 2 June 2020 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, Noun, and Adjective

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

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Time Traveler for attack

Time Traveler

The first known use of attack was circa 1576

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Statistics for attack

Last Updated

2 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Attack.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/attack. Accessed 5 Dec. 2020.

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More Definitions for attack

attack

verb
How to pronounce attack (audio)

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

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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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