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

They’re attacked by invulnerable aliens who look precisely like the invasive space dust from Dark Phoenix. Darren Franich, EW.com, "Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson reunite for eerily bland Men in Black: International: EW review," 12 June 2019 Booker was shot to death in May, weeks after a video of her being attacked by a mob spread across the internet. Emanuella Grinberg, CNN, "Suspect arrested in slayings of transgender woman and two other people in Dallas," 12 June 2019 The spectacle topped encounters over the weekend that included a pod of four killer whales attacking a sea lion Saturday, then the same pod taking down a young elephant seal Sunday. Tom Stienstra, SFChronicle.com, "Whales, killer sharks steal some of U.S. Open’s thunder in Monterey Bay," 12 June 2019 They were primed to stop the confirmation of Ken Cuccinelli—a man who made a career out of attacking GOP senators—as head of Citizenship and Immigration Services (until Trump went and appointed Cuccinelli to an acting role). Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Corruption Is the Tie that Binds for Trump-Era Republicans," 11 June 2019 It’s hard to walk outside in grassy areas or the woods without being attacked by blood-thirsty creatures lurking around every corner. Suzanne Baker, Aurora Beacon-News, "Experts: Time for mosquito overload," 10 June 2019 Several foreigners who spoke to Guatemalan children or took pictures of them were attacked by large crowds; at least two were killed. Rachel Nolan, Harper's magazine, "Destined for Export," 10 June 2019 There is its beauty, its capacity to thrill with attacking play of rare delight and defensive play of awe-inspiring resilience; and, crucially, none of that is threatened in the long run by the introduction of greater fairness. Musa Okwonga, Quartz Africa, "How to make the case for and against VAR—video assistant referee—in the beautiful game," 10 June 2019 Among a score of targets attacked Monday night by more than 1000 British heavy bombers were bridges near Caen. Wes Gallagher, Houston Chronicle, "U.S. TROOPS CAPTURE MONTEBOURG," 9 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Hundreds of civilians were killed in both Iraqi and Iranian attacks. Washington Post, "The last time a ‘Tanker War’ broke out in the Persian Gulf, it lasted for years," 14 June 2019 Last month’s oil tanker attacks were also carried out with a magnetic mine. John Walcott, Time, "Oil Tanker Attacks Put Trump's Iran Red Line to the Test," 14 June 2019 The attack sent oil prices higher Thursday, although US oil futures are down 0.1% at $52.23 a barrel Friday. Anneken Tappe, CNN, "Stocks are pointing lower. Global growth worries return. Here's what's happening in markets today," 14 June 2019 Yet while shooting is a concern, so is the lack of attack-mode options off the dribble, which stands as perhaps the most glaring void in the wake of Wade's exit. Ira Winderman, sun-sentinel.com, "NBA draft preview: Heat suddenly shallow at shooting guard," 14 June 2019 Mercury News Comment Policy Treat everyone with respect: No personal attacks or name-calling, no rude language. Randy Vazquez, The Mercury News, "Video: Goodbye, Oracle. Thanks for the memories — it’s been a heck of a ride!," 13 June 2019 Harris earned second team all-conference honors after leading a group that helped produce a top 25 rushing attack that averaged more than 215 yards per game. Matt Murschel, orlandosentinel.com, "2019 College Football Rankings: No. 72 Toledo pushes for MAC title," 13 June 2019 Though Bolles had been in critical or grave condition since the bombing attack, Dozer said fluctuations in his condition alternatively gave doctors reason for hope and for pessimism. AZCentral.com, "Don Bolles loses fight for life: Remembering the reporter with his 1976 obituary," 13 June 2019 Jon Stewart's latest impassioned plea to help 9/11 first responders sickened by the attack is giving the issue new urgency in Washington. CBS News, "Jon Stewart chokes up, slams lawmakers at hearing on 9/11 first responders fund," 12 June 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

16 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

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