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

We are flabbergasted at the audacity of Todd and Chase Chrisley, who are more focused on attacking my client rather than defending themselves against the allegations of criminal conduct. Claudia Harmata, PEOPLE.com, "Todd Chrisley Celebrates Mom Nanny Faye’s Birthday amid Tax Evasion Scandal," 3 Sep. 2019 After midnight Hong Kong time, the conflict was still going strong, and Lam condemned police for attacking and beating passengers inside a train at a station. Ephrat Livni, Quartz, "Hong Kong police are marking protestors with blue dye shot from water cannons," 31 Aug. 2019 Patterson completed a few simple passes by attacking soft coverage on the outside. Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan football's new offense shines, despite sloppiness, in 40-21 win over MTSU," 31 Aug. 2019 Akindele said that the call-up felt particularly hard-fought due to the current boom in attacking talent on the Canadian national team. Julia Poe, Pro Soccer USA, "Five international call-ups reflect growth for Orlando City players," 30 Aug. 2019 John McClane grapples with a villain who plans to shut down the United States by attacking the country’s vulnerable computer infrastructure. Los Angeles Times, "Movies on TV this week Sept. 1 - 7, 2019: John Wayne in ‘The Searchers’ and more," 30 Aug. 2019 That could serve the Rams well in attacking the clearest on-paper weakness on the CU front as the season opens — the Buffs’ young defensive line. The Denver Post, "Rocky Mountain Showdown 2019: Who has the edge, staff predictions and things to watch," 29 Aug. 2019 The Obama and Trump White Houses have taken the first steps to that kind of deterrence regime: The Obama administration indicted seven Iranian hackers for their roles in attacking US banks. Andy Greenberg, WIRED, "The WIRED Guide to Cyberwar," 23 Aug. 2019 Pavelich was arrested at 8:48 p.m. on Aug 15 after allegedly attacking his neighbor with a metal pole. Chris Bumbaca, USA TODAY, "Member of 'Miracle on Ice' team Mark Pavelich faces charges after allegedly attacking neighbor with pole," 22 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Investigators contacted him in January to talk about the 2001 attack, according to the charges. Anchorage Daily News, "She leapt from a moving car on the Kenai Peninsula to escape her rapist. Then she waited 18 years for an arrest.," 6 Sep. 2019 In attack, the USMNT are without Jozy Altidore, who was an unquestionable catalyst in the team's best attacking sequences in the Gold Cup Final. Si Wire, SI.com, "USA vs. Mexico Live Stream, TV Channel: How to Watch Friendly," 6 Sep. 2019 Isn’t the West Coast offense, whose principles form the foundation of more than half the league’s attacks, a system? Les Carpenter, The Denver Post, "Case Keenum is an unwanted QB who keeps winning jobs. He “wouldn’t have it any other way.”," 5 Sep. 2019 When any one of us is not safe to step outside of our homes and live our lives without fear of attack, none of us are safe. Phil Rockrohr, chicagotribune.com, "Oakton Community College hosts solidarity vigil for victims of hate," 3 Sep. 2019 Many Nigerians work in South Africa, but they are sometimes stereotyped as criminals and are often the target of attacks, including fatal ones. New York Times, "South African Riots Kill Five and Spur Cries of Xenophobia," 3 Sep. 2019 The Chinese government appears to be behind the attack, which also involved penetrating Android and Windows devices. Adam Lashinsky, Fortune, "Why Harvard and Yale Students Can Skip This Computer Science Class—Data Sheet," 3 Sep. 2019 Chamber of Commerce data suggests lodging and beach visit numbers are down, one year after the famous tourist destination dealt with two shark attacks, including Massachusetts’ first fatal one in more than 80 years. USA TODAY, "Space dummy, Bigfoot denial, pumped-up pumpkin: News from around our 50 states," 2 Sep. 2019 The ransomware involved in the Texas attacks, which hit 22 local-level government entities, has not yet been identified. Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica, "Rash of ransomware continues with 13 new victims—most of them schools," 30 Aug. 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

8 Sep 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

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