Attila the Hun

[ (at-il-uh, uh-til-uh) ]
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A king of the Huns in the fifth century. Attila's forces overran many parts of central and eastern Europe. His armies were known for their cruelty and wholesale destruction, and Attila himself was called the “scourge of God.”

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


Who was Attila the Hun?

Attila the Hun was a major military ruler in 5th-century Europe, best known for his savage fighting and constant sieges of the Roman Empire. Sometimes misspelled as “Atilla,” his name has become a synonym for a ruthless warrior.

Where does Attila the Hun come from?

Originating from the steppes around the Caspian Sea, the Huns were a group of nomadic tribes in Europe during the 4th and 5th centuries a.d.

Attila (406–453) became one of the most fearsome rulers of the Huns, consolidating various groups into an empire that spanned from central Europe to central Asia.

Attila notably attacked the Roman Empire. While he never captured Constantinople, Rome’s eastern seat, his sieges on Roman lands contributed to the splintering and dissolution of Rome.

Nicknamed the Scourge of God, Attila was notorious for his brilliant but ferocious military, commanding and formidable bearing, and an intimidating gaze as well as claiming he wielded the very sword of Mars.

Often depicted on horseback with a bow-and-arrow wearing a kind of pointed, fur-brimmed hats associated with Central Asian peoples, Attila the Hun is widely cited as a ruthless warrior.

He’s been featured in everything from Dante’s Inferno to Night at the Museum, the 2006 comedy where he is a minor character.

Yet for all his savagery, it’s said that Attila the Hun died from a nosebleed during his wedding feast.

How is Attila the Hun used in real life?

Outside of historic references, Attila the Hun is used as a figure for an extremely vicious fighter or cruel person, especially in political contexts.


This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

How to use Attila the Hun in a sentence