verb (used with object)

verb (used without object)

to make an attack; begin hostilities.


Origin of attack

1590–1600; earlier atta(c)que < Middle French atta(c)quer < Italian attaccare to attack, attach
Related formsat·tack·a·ble, adjectiveat·tack·er, nounnon·at·tack·ing, adjectivepost·at·tack, adjectivepro·at·tack, adjectivere·at·tack, verbun·at·tack·a·ble, adjectiveun·at·tacked, adjective

Synonyms for attack

Synonym study

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.

Antonyms for attack

1, 4. defend. 9. defense. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for attack

Contemporary Examples of attack

Historical Examples of attack

British Dictionary definitions for attack



to launch a physical assault (against) with or without weapons; begin hostilities (with)
(intr) to take the initiative in a game, sport, etcafter a few minutes, the team began to attack
(tr) to direct hostile words or writings at; criticize or abuse vehemently
(tr) to turn one's mind or energies vigorously to (a job, problem, etc)
(tr) to begin to injure or affect adversely; corrode, corrupt, or infectrust attacked the metal
(tr) to attempt to rape


the act or an instance of attacking
strong criticism or abusean unjustified attack on someone's reputation
an offensive move in a game, sport, etc
commencement of a task, etc
any sudden and usually severe manifestation of a disease or disordera heart attack; an attack of indigestion
the attack ball games the players in a team whose main role is to attack the opponents' goal or territory
music decisiveness in beginning a passage, movement, or piece
music the speed with which a note reaches its maximum volume
an attempted rape
Derived Formsattackable, adjectiveattacker, nounattacking, adjective

Word Origin for attack

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

c.1600, from French attaquer (16c.), from Florentine Italian attaccare (battaglia) "join (battle)," thus the word is a doublet of attach, which was used 15c.-17c. also in the sense now reserved to attack. Related: Attacked; attacking.


1660s, from attack (v.). Cf. Middle English attach "a seizure or attack" (of fever), late 14c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for attack




An episode or onset of a disease, often sudden in nature.
Related formsat•tack v.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.