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at·​tempt ə-ˈtem(p)t How to pronounce attempt (audio)
attempted; attempting; attempts

transitive verb

: to make an effort to do, accomplish, solve, or effect
He attempted to swim the swollen river.
archaic : tempt
archaic : to try to subdue or take by force : attack
attemptable adjective


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: the act or an instance of trying to do or accomplish something : an act or instance of attempting something
She failed the test on her first attempt but passed on her second attempt.
They made an attempt [=tried] to be helpful.
often : an unsuccessful effort
a suicide attempt
: something resulting from or representing an attempt
… surrounded by lemon trees and a few attempts at rose bushes.Marian Engel
: attack, assault
an attempt on the life of the president
Choose the Right Synonym for attempt

attempt, try, endeavor, essay, strive mean to make an effort to accomplish an end.

attempt stresses the initiation or beginning of an effort.

will attempt to photograph the rare bird

try is often close to attempt but may stress effort or experiment made in the hope of testing or proving something.

tried to determine which was the better procedure

endeavor heightens the implications of exertion and difficulty.

endeavored to find crash survivors in the mountains

essay implies difficulty but also suggests tentative trying or experimenting.

will essay a dramatic role for the first time

strive implies great exertion against great difficulty and specifically suggests persistent effort.

continues to strive for peace

Examples of attempt in a Sentence

Verb They've attempted a climb up Mount Everest once before. She attempted suicide early in their marriage. Noun She failed her driving test on the first attempt but she succeeded on her second attempt. Her attempt at a home-cooked meal consisted of frozen fish sticks and a can of soup.
Recent Examples on the Web
Avoid any water that may be charged with electricity and do not attempt to walk through floodwaters. Star-Telegram Bot, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 16 May 2024 In the first Polaris spaceflight, Isaacman and a crewmate will attempt to step outside a SpaceX capsule. Nell Greenfieldboyce, NPR, 16 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for attempt 

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

Word History


Verb and Noun

Middle English, from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French attempter, from Latin attemptare, from ad- + temptare to touch, try — more at tempt

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


circa 1534, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of attempt was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near attempt

Cite this Entry

“Attempt.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 verb
at·​tempt ə-ˈtem(p)t How to pronounce attempt (audio)
: to try to do or perform
attempt an escape
: to make an effort : try
attempt to solve the problem


2 of 2 noun
: the act or an instance of attempting
especially : an unsuccessful effort
: attack entry 2 sense 1
an attempt on the president's life

Legal Definition


: the crime of having the intent to commit and taking action in an effort to commit a crime that fails or is prevented

called also criminal attempt

see also impossibility

Note: There must generally be more than preparation to be guilty of attempt.

More from Merriam-Webster on attempt

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