1

attack

verb at·tack \ ə-ˈtak \
Updated on: 15 Nov 2017

Definition of attack

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 :to set to work on
  • attack a problem
5 chess :to threaten (a piece) with immediate capture
intransitive verb
:to make an attack
  • They were unprepared when the enemy attacked.

attacker

noun

Examples of attack in a Sentence

  1. He attacked the guard with a knife.

  2. Troops attacked the fortress at dawn.

  3. The troops attacked at dawn.

  4. People are attacking the mayor for breaking campaign promises.

  5. The professor has been widely attacked for her position on the issue.

  6. Did you see the way the kids attacked that pizza?

Recent Examples of attack from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of attack

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

attack Synonyms

Synonyms
assail, assault, beset, bushwhack, charge, descend (on or upon), go in (on), jump (on), pounce (on or upon), raid, rush, set on, sic (also sick), storm, strike, trash, turn (on), beat up on, fly at, go at, light into, pitch into, round on, set at, set upon, tear into, beat up on, light into, sail into, tie into, go at, have at, light into, pitch into, sail into, tear into
Related Words
bum-rush, gang up (on), mob, swarm; mug, rob; ambuscade, ambush, surprise (also surprize), waylay; blitz, bomb, bombard, nuke; barrage, cannon, cannonade; bang away (at), batter, buffet, plaster; beleaguer, besiege, press; harry, loot, pillage, plunder, ravage, sack; foray, invade, overrun; envelop, flank
Near Antonyms
cover, defend, guard, protect, secure, shield

Synonym Discussion of 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

2

attack

noun

Definition of attack

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
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
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 pharse come under attack with the meaning "to begin being attacked"
  • a theory that has recent come under attack

Examples of attack in a Sentence

  1. The immune system is the body's defense against attack by germs.

  2. The spray protects plants from attacks by many common pests.

  3. The surprise attack came at dawn.

  4. There is a threat of nuclear attack.

  5. There have been many attacks against the professor for her position on the issue.

  6. The newspaper editorial is an attack on policy-makers.

Recent Examples of attack from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of attack


3

attack

adjective

Definition of attack

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

Examples of attack in a Sentence

  1. The bombers were in attack formation.

Recent Examples of attack from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of attack



ATTACK Defined for English Language Learners

attack

verb

Definition of attack for English Language Learners

  • : 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

Definition of attack for English Language Learners

  • : 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

Definition of attack for English Language Learners

  • : designed for or used in a military attack


ATTACK Defined for Kids

1

attack

verb at·tack \ ə-ˈtak \

Definition of attack for Students

attacked; attacking
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.

attacker

noun

2

attack

noun

Definition of attack for Students

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

Medical Dictionary

1

attack

transitive verb at·tack \ ə-ˈtak \

medical Definition of attack

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

2

attack

noun

medical Definition of attack

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

Law Dictionary

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

attack

verb


Seen and Heard

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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

WORD OF THE DAY

ditzy

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Find the Cousins

  • a-large-tree-with-many-branches
  • Which pair shares a common word ancestor?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Dictionary Devil

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!