a sudden, violent attack; onslaught: an assault on tradition.
Law. an unlawful physical attack upon another; an attempt or offer to do violence to another, with or without battery, as by holding a stone or club in a threatening manner.
Military. the stage of close combat in an attack.

verb (used with object)

to make an assault upon; attack; assail.

Origin of assault

1200–50; Middle English asaut < Old French < Medieval Latin assaltus (replacing Latin assultus), equivalent to Latin as- as- + saltus a leap (sal(īre) to leap + -tus suffix of v. action)
Related formsas·sault·a·ble, adjectiveas·sault·er, nouncoun·ter·as·sault, verb (used with object), nounnon·as·sault, nounun·as·sault·a·ble, adjectiveun·as·sault·ed, adjective
Can be confusedassault battery

Synonyms for assault

Synonym study

5. See attack. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for assault

Contemporary Examples of assault

Historical Examples of assault

British Dictionary definitions for assault



a violent attack, either physical or verbal
law an intentional or reckless act that causes another person to expect to be subjected to immediate and unlawful violenceCompare battery (def. 4), assault and battery
  1. the culmination of a military attack, in which fighting takes place at close quarters
  2. (as modifier)assault troops
rape or attempted rape

verb (tr)

to make an assault upon
to rape or attempt to rape
Derived Formsassaulter, nounassaultive, adjective

Word Origin for assault

C13: from Old French asaut, from Vulgar Latin assaltus (unattested), from assalīre (unattested) to leap upon; see assail
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for assault

late 14c., earlier asaut (c.1200), from Old French asaut, assaut "an attack, an assault, attacking forces" (12c.), from Vulgar Latin *adsaltus "attack, assault," from ad "to" (see ad-) + Latin saltus "a leap," from salire "to leap, spring" (see assail). In law by 1580s; historically, assault includes menacing words or actions; battery is an actual blow.


early 15c., from Middle French asauter, assauter, from Vulgar Latin *assaltare (see assault (n.)). Related: Assaulted; assaulting.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper