attack

verb
at·​tack | \ ə-ˈtak \
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

The settlement was on land that flowed into a sprawling nature reserve, home to more than 20 leopards that occasionally attack locals. Corinne Abrams, WSJ, "‘You Have to Actually Cut Open Mumbai’s Belly’—Inside One of the World’s Most Audacious Transit Projects," 6 Jan. 2019 Botulism is a rare but serious illness caused by a toxin that attacks the body’s nerves, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Korin Miller, SELF, "Del Monte Recalls Canned Corn Over Concerns It Could Cause ‘Life-Threatening Illness'," 14 Dec. 2018 These people are targeting anyone who attacks, who asks questions about the drug war. Eric Johnson, Recode, "Memo from a ‘Facebook nation’ to Mark Zuckerberg: You moved fast and broke our country.," 26 Nov. 2018 They’re active participants, as when Lila hurls stones back at the boys who attack her — and Elena steps in to help. Anna North, Vox, "My Brilliant Friend pulls back the curtain on women’s lives. What it reveals is dark and violent.," 20 Nov. 2018 Those who didn't attack Brian and Tyler's singing came after their outfits instead. Kelly O'sullivan, Country Living, "Florida Georgia Line's CMAs Performance With Bebe Rexha Left Country Music Fans Unhappy," 15 Nov. 2018 Mandatory sanctions on anyone who attacks our electoral systems serve as the best deterrent, which is the central tenet of the bipartisan DETER Act. Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica, "Trump signs order authorizing “automatic” sanctions for election interference [Updated]," 12 Sep. 2018 The red tide is made up of a huge concentration of a type of algae, Karenia brevis, that turns the water a reddish-brown or green color and creates chemicals that attack the nervous system of marine life. Sebastian Modak, Condé Nast Traveler, "Florida Hit By Worst 'Red Tide' Bloom in Over a Decade," 3 Aug. 2018 The mid-morning stabbing was the 30-year-old woman’s attempt to flee the boyfriend, who had attacked her and punched her child, Lt. Teri Figueroa, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Woman stabs alleged assailant, hides in brush with child until help comes," 13 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Recent studies have found that terrorist attacks are on the decline globally. Warren P. Strobel, WSJ, "Europe Faces Continuing Terror Threat, While Concerns in U.S. Ebb, Study Finds," 20 Dec. 2018 The notable exception is that this attack is impossible, at least in theory, against 2fa that uses an industry-standard security key. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "Iranian phishers bypass 2fa protections offered by Yahoo Mail and Gmail," 13 Dec. 2018 The bug was disclosed to Facebook and resolved in May. In technical terms, the attack is a cross-site request forgery, using a legitimate Facebook login in unauthorized ways. Casey Newton, The Verge, "Amazon’s HQ2 stunt could come back to haunt it," 14 Nov. 2018 After Stephen Bonnet's terrifying attack on their riverside camp, Jamie and Claire are on to slightly safer accommodations in this week's episode of Outlander. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "Is Aunt Jocasta's River Run Plantation in Outlander a Real Place?," 11 Nov. 2018 The last inside attack was August 2017, when a Romanian soldier was wounded. Fox News, "US service member killed, 2 wounded in 'apparent insider attack' in Afghanistan," 2 Oct. 2018 Of course, Ari has has a tough several months, dealing with the Manchester attack, the death of her ex Mac Miller, and a broken engagement. Carolyn Twersky, Seventeen, "Ariana Grande Got Super Emotional in Her First Speech Post Split with Pete Davidson," 7 Dec. 2018 The whole press and red carpet thing was an attack on the senses. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Rupert Grint Says He Thought About Leaving the 'Harry Potter' Franchise Multiple Times," 2 Dec. 2018 The more aggressive the attack, the faster the evolution. Rob Dunn, Discover Magazine, "Our Attempts to Eradicate Insects are Just Making them Resistant to Pesticides," 16 Nov. 2018

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

13 Jan 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 \
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 \

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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