1 of 2


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


2 of 2


: 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

Example Sentences

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
The company didn’t attempt to steer or direct his team’s research in any way, said Garvey, who's now a research scientist and lecturer at Columbia University. Lesley Clark, Scientific American, 13 Jan. 2023 While racing three marathons in a month is something most of us should probably not attempt, Krifchin has some advice for those of us with more modest ambitions. Martin Fritz Huber, Outside Online, 15 Dec. 2022 Lee was found to be carrying a 3-inch folding knife that was shaped to resemble a firearm, but did not attempt to use the weapon during the attack, authorities have said. Nardine Saadstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 15 Dec. 2022 But crypto lawyers soon noted that the actual complaint against Bankman-Fried did not attempt to expand the SEC’s purview. Andrew R. Chow, Time, 13 Dec. 2022 Still, Alabama led by no more than six in the first half against a Memphis lineup that didn’t attempt its first 3-pointer until 3:41 mark of the first half. Michael Casagrande |, al, 13 Dec. 2022 Unitas played in the game for U of L, although he was injured, and did not attempt a pass. Kyle Brown, The Enquirer, 12 Dec. 2022 Any healthcare provider who does not attempt to save the infant’s life is subject to penalties. Leah Campano, Seventeen, 10 Nov. 2022 Price and Maroun attempt to get a key witness to testify, even though speaking could lead to legal consequences. Olivia Mccormack, Washington Post, 5 Jan. 2023
Kendrick’s mother was arrested on the eighth floor of the courthouse, charged with one count of criminal attempt to commit a misdemeanor and released Wednesday on a $1,500 bond. Shaddi Abusaid, ajc, 19 Jan. 2023 The move is part of an attempt to restructure and reduce the company's debt. Saleen Martin, USA TODAY, 18 Jan. 2023 The scheduling is part of the NBA’s attempt to reduce travel. Ira Winderman, Sun Sentinel, 13 Jan. 2023 The team uses computers to create a digital scan of the grooves on the wax disc, removing any scratches or damage that might get in the way of the recovery attempt. Molly Enking, Smithsonian Magazine, 13 Jan. 2023 At one point, Pugh had the notion that Allison should cut her own hair as part of a desperate attempt to puncture the fog of depression. Chloe Schama, Vogue, 12 Jan. 2023 Trump posted on Truth Social just hours ahead of the House’s fourth attempt to elect a speaker. David Lautersenior Editor, Los Angeles Times, 6 Jan. 2023 Trump posted on Truth Social just hours ahead of the House’s fourth attempt to elect a speaker. Dallas News, 4 Jan. 2023 Kani was placed under arrest and charged with first-degree criminal trespassing, two counts of criminal attempt at first-degree larceny and failure to renew registration. Mike Mavredakis, Hartford Courant, 28 Dec. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'attempt.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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 2 Feb. 2023.

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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