late 14c., from Old French attempter (14c.), earlier atenter "to try, attempt, test," from Latin attemptare "to try" (cf. Italian attentare, Old Provençal, Portuguese attentar, Spanish atentar), from ad- "to, upon" (see ad-) + temptare "to try" (see tempt). Related: Attempted; attempting.
1530s, from attempt (v.). Meaning "effort to accomplish something by violence" is from 1580s, especially as an assault on someone's life.