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as·​sault ə-ˈsȯlt How to pronounce assault (audio)
: a violent physical or verbal attack
: a military attack usually involving direct combat with enemy forces
an assault on the enemy's air base
: a concerted effort (as to reach a goal or defeat an adversary)
an assault on drug trafficking
: a threat or attempt to inflict offensive physical contact or bodily harm on a person (as by lifting a fist in a threatening manner) that puts the person in immediate danger of or in apprehension (see apprehension sense 1) of such harm or contact compare battery sense 1b


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assaulted; assaulting; assaults

transitive verb

: to make an assault on : to attack violently
assaulted a police officer
: rape sense 1
The victim was sexually assaulted.

intransitive verb

: to make an assault
assaulter noun
Choose the Right Synonym for assault

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 assault in a Sentence

Noun She was injured in a brutal assault. attended a class teaching women self-defense against assault Verb He was arrested for assaulting a police officer. She verbally assaulted one of her coworkers. Enemy forces assaulted the city.
Recent Examples on the Web
Beijing has also softened its regulatory assault on Chinese technology companies and the property sector. Jacky Wong, WSJ, 6 Feb. 2023 Zelenskyy has warned for weeks that Moscow aims to step up its assault after about two months of virtual stalemate along the front line that stretches across the south and east. Reuters, NBC News, 31 Jan. 2023
Just two months before, Majors had been arrested for assaulting his former girlfriend Grace Jabbari. Helena Andrews-Dyer, Washington Post, 13 July 2024 Traitors stormed the Capitol, assaulted our police, and tried to suppress the will of millions of voters — including Arizonans. Ronald J. Hansen, The Arizona Republic, 12 July 2024 See all Example Sentences for assault 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'assault.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Noun and Verb

Middle English assaut, from Anglo-French, from Vulgar Latin *assaltus, from assalire — see assail

First Known Use


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of assault was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near assault

Cite this Entry

“Assault.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


: a violent or sudden attack
: an unlawful attempt or threat to do harm to another
assault verb


Middle English assaut "assault," from early French assaut (same meaning), derived from Latin assilire, adsilire "to leap upon," from as-, ad- "to, toward" and salire "to leap, spring" — related to insult, resilient

Legal Definition


1 of 2 noun
as·​sault ə-ˈsȯlt How to pronounce assault (audio)
: the crime or tort of threatening or attempting to inflict immediate offensive physical contact or bodily harm that one has the present ability to inflict and that puts the victim in fear of such harm or contact compare battery
: the crime of assault accompanied by battery
specifically : sexual assault in this entry

called also assault and battery

aggravated assault
: a criminal assault accompanied by aggravating factors: as
a : a criminal assault that is committed with an intent to cause or that causes serious bodily injury especially through the use of a dangerous weapon
b : a criminal assault accompanied by the intent to commit or the commission of a felony (as rape) compare simple assault in this entry
assault with intent
: a criminal assault committed with the intent to commit another specified crime assault with intent to rob assault with intent to kill
civil assault
: an assault considered as a tort rather than as a crime compare criminal assault in this entry
criminal assault
: an assault considered as a crime rather than as a tort compare civil assault in this entry

Note: An assault may be both a criminal assault and a civil assault.

felonious assault
: a criminal assault that is classified as a felony and involves the infliction of serious bodily injury by the use of a dangerous weapon
indecent assault
: intentional offensive sexual contact that does not amount to sexual intercourse or involve penetration and that is committed without consent of the victim and without the intent to commit rape
sexual assault
: sexual contact usually that is forced upon a person without consent or inflicted upon a person who is incapable of giving consent (as because of age or physical or mental incapacity) or who places the assailant (as a doctor) in a position of trust see also rape

Note: Sexual assault in its most serious forms (often classified as first degree sexual assault) involves nonconsensual sexual penetration. In its less serious forms it may be the equivalent of statutory rape.

simple assault
: a criminal assault that is not accompanied by any aggravating factors (as infliction of serious injury or use of a dangerous weapon) compare aggravated assault in this entry

Note: Simple assault is usually classified as a misdemeanor.


2 of 2 transitive verb
: to make an assault on
specifically : to subject to a sexual assault

intransitive verb

: to make an assault
assaulter noun
assaultive adjective
assaultively adverb
assaultiveness noun


Old French assaut, literally, attack, ultimately from Latin assultus, from assilire to leap (on), attack

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