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. 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

Symptoms will depend on which organs tertiary syphilis is attacking. Carolyn L. Todd, SELF, "We Need to Talk About Syphilis," 28 May 2019 In other words, officials are worried that Huawei will help the Chinese government spy on or attack the US. Emily Stewart, Vox, "The US government’s ongoing battle with Chinese telecom giant Huawei, explained," 17 May 2019 In the beginning of last week's episode, he was convinced that his queen Daenerys would stop attacking the city once the Lannister army had surrendered. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Game of Thrones Literally Only Shared Two Photos of the Finale," 15 May 2019 Today, the company warned users to apply a critical patch for a remote code execution vulnerability that could open older versions of Windows to attack. Brad Chacos, PCWorld, "Microsoft issues a rare Windows XP patch to combat a virulent WannaCry-like exploit in older OS versions," 14 May 2019 Ghost followed Jon on his Night's Watch, present at the Wall even when Jon was attacked and killed by the rebels of the Watch. Ineye Komonibo, Marie Claire, "Why Didn't Jon Snow Say Goodbye to Ghost the Direwolf on 'Game of Thrones'?," 8 May 2019 And last fall, Paul was attacked and beaten in his yard in Kentucky by his neighbor -- an episode that a Kentucky Democrat joked about earlier this year. Fox News, "Eric Holder rejects Michelle Obama's call for civility: 'When they go low, we kick 'em'," 10 Oct. 2018 Samta* was cleaning rice inside her home when the men attacked. Seema Yasmin, SELF, "In Rural India, Protecting Women From Witch Hunting, and an Impending Flood," 17 Aug. 2018 Chelsea hired Maurizio Sarri as its manager on a three-year contract on Saturday, bringing in a headstrong coach known for his expansive, attacking approach to football and for revitalizing Napoli in his only stint with a big European club. Steve Douglas, chicagotribune.com, "Chelsea replace Conte with former Napoli boss Sarri," 14 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Given what happened in the season 5 finale (where Thanos's attack on Wakanda is brought up) S.H.I.E.L.D. season 6 would, theoretically, take place after half of the universe's population has turned into dust. Selena Barrientos, Good Housekeeping, "Here's How Marvel's 'Agents of Shield' Season 6 Is Going to Deal With 'Avengers: Endgame'," 6 May 2019 Making a joke about a woman's outfit is not an attack on her character, ideas, or her work. Lauren Alexis Fisher, Harper's BAZAAR, "Why Criticizing a Bad Red Carpet Outfit Is Not Sexist—or Personal," 25 Apr. 2019 This is believed to be the largest attack on South Asian Christians in recent times. Christian Allaire, Vogue, "Over 200 Dead in Sri Lanka Bombings," 21 Apr. 2019 What security vendor Kaspersky is calling ShadowHammer was actually a targeted attack at a small number of users. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Update: Asus issues fix for ShadowHammer attack, and a tool to detect if your PC was affected," 26 Mar. 2019 Ariana Grande has been through some tough times recently—a terrorist attack, the shocking death of her ex Mac Miller, and the very public engagement and break-up of her and SNL's Pete Davidson. Tess Kornfeld, Glamour, "Ariana Grande Says 'Therapy Has Saved My Life'," 5 Nov. 2018 Seven other students are said to have been wounded in the attacks. Rich Ceppos, Car and Driver, "Hundreds of Jeeps Pay Tribute to 18-Year-Old Jeep Owner Killed Thwarting School Shooting," 16 May 2019 Oil futures shot higher Tuesday amid a new report of attacks on major Saudi facilities, which helped to raise supply concerns and push up prices. Myra P. Saefong, Marketwatch, WSJ, "Oil Prices Gain as Explosive-Packed Drone Attacks on Saudi Production Reported -- MarketWatch," 14 May 2019 While Kate Middleton remains at home in London, William has been in New Zealand to pay respect to the victims of the Christchurch terror attacks. Lucy Wood, Marie Claire, "Prince William Gave the Funniest Response When Asked if Baby Sussex Had Arrived Yet," 29 Apr. 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.

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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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Statistics for attack

Last Updated

2 Jun 2019

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 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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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

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