[ uh-tak ]
See synonyms for: attackattackedattackingattacks on

verb (used with object)
  1. to set upon in a forceful, violent, hostile, or aggressive way, with or without a weapon; begin fighting with: He attacked him with his bare hands.

  2. to begin hostilities against; start an offensive against: to attack the enemy.

  1. to blame or abuse violently or bitterly.

  2. to direct unfavorable criticism against; criticize severely; argue with strongly: He attacked his opponent's statement.

  3. to try to destroy, especially with verbal abuse: to attack the mayor's reputation.

  4. to set about (a task) or go to work on (a thing) vigorously: to attack housecleaning;to attack the hamburger hungrily.

  5. (of disease, destructive agencies, etc.) to begin to affect.

verb (used without object)
  1. to make an attack; begin hostilities.

  1. the act of attacking; onslaught; assault.

  2. a military offensive against an enemy or enemy position.

  1. Pathology. seizure by disease or illness: an attack of indigestion.

  2. the beginning or initiating of any action; onset.

  3. an aggressive move in a performance or contest.

  4. the approach or manner of approach in beginning a musical phrase.

Origin of attack

First recorded in 1590–1600; earlier atta(c)que, from Middle French atta(c)quer, from Italian attaccare “to attack”; cf. attach

synonym study For attack

1. Attack, assail, assault, molest all mean to set upon someone forcibly, with hostile or violent intent. Attack is the most general word and applies to a beginning of hostilities, especially those definitely planned: to attack from ambush. Assail implies vehement, sudden, and sometimes repeated attack: to assail with weapons or with gossip. Assault almost always implies bodily violence: to assault with intent to kill. To molest is to harass, to threaten, or to assault: He was safe, and where no one could molest him.

Other words for attack

Opposites for attack

Other words from attack

  • at·tack·a·ble, adjective
  • at·tack·er, noun
  • non·at·tack·ing, adjective
  • post·at·tack, adjective
  • pro·at·tack, adjective
  • re·at·tack, verb
  • un·at·tack·a·ble, adjective
  • un·at·tacked, adjective

Words Nearby attack Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use attack in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for attack


/ (əˈtæk) /

  1. to launch a physical assault (against) with or without weapons; begin hostilities (with)

  2. (intr) to take the initiative in a game, sport, etc: after a few minutes, the team began to attack

  1. (tr) to direct hostile words or writings at; criticize or abuse vehemently

  2. (tr) to turn one's mind or energies vigorously to (a job, problem, etc)

  3. (tr) to begin to injure or affect adversely; corrode, corrupt, or infect: rust attacked the metal

  4. (tr) to attempt to rape

  1. the act or an instance of attacking

  2. strong criticism or abuse: an unjustified attack on someone's reputation

  1. an offensive move in a game, sport, etc

  2. commencement of a task, etc

  3. any sudden and usually severe manifestation of a disease or disorder: a heart attack; an attack of indigestion

  4. the attack ball games the players in a team whose main role is to attack the opponents' goal or territory

  5. music decisiveness in beginning a passage, movement, or piece

  6. music the speed with which a note reaches its maximum volume

  7. an attempted rape

Origin of attack

C16: from French attaquer, from Old Italian attaccare to attack, attach, from estaccare to attach, from stacca stake 1; compare attach

Derived forms of attack

  • attackable, adjective
  • attacker, noun
  • attacking, adjective

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