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attack Meaning, Definition & Usage

  1. noun (military) an offensive against an enemy (using weapons)
    onset; onrush; onslaught.
    • the attack began at dawn
  2. noun an offensive move in a sport or game
    • they won the game with a 10-hit attack in the 9th inning
  3. noun intense adverse criticism
    fire; flack; blast; flak.
    • Clinton directed his fire at the Republican Party
    • the government has come under attack
    • don't give me any flak
  4. noun ideas or actions intended to deal with a problem or situation
    plan of attack; approach.
    • his approach to every problem is to draw up a list of pros and cons
    • an attack on inflation
    • his plan of attack was misguided
  5. noun the act of attacking
    • attacks on women increased last year
    • they made an attempt on his life
  6. noun a decisive manner of beginning a musical tone or phrase
  7. noun a sudden occurrence of an uncontrollable condition
    • an attack of diarrhea
  8. noun the onset of a corrosive or destructive process (as by a chemical agent)
    • the film was sensitive to attack by acids
    • open to attack by the elements
  9. noun strong criticism
    • he published an unexpected attack on my work
  10. verb launch an attack or assault on; begin hostilities or start warfare with
    • Hitler attacked Poland on September 1, 1939 and started World War II
    • Serbian forces assailed Bosnian towns all week
  11. verb attack in speech or writing
    lash out; assault; assail; snipe; round.
    • The editors of the left-leaning paper attacked the new House Speaker
  12. verb take the initiative and go on the offensive
    • The Serbs attacked the village at night
    • The visiting team started to attack
  13. verb attack someone physically or emotionally
    assail; assault; set on.
    • The mugger assaulted the woman
    • Nightmares assailed him regularly
  14. verb set to work upon; turn one's energies vigorously to a task
    • I attacked the problem as soon as I got out of bed
  15. verb begin to injure
    • The cancer cells are attacking his liver
    • Rust is attacking the metal

At*tack" transitive verb
F. attaquer, orig. another form of attacher to attack: cf. It. attacare to fasten, attack. See Attach, Tack a small nail.
imperfect & past participle Attacked present participle & verbal noun Attacking
  1. To fall upon with force; to assail, as with force and arms; to assault. "Attack their lines." Dryden.
  2. To assail with unfriendly speech or writing; to begin a controversy with; to attempt to overthrow or bring into disrepute, by criticism or satire; to censure; as, to attack a man, or his opinions, in a pamphlet.
  3. To set to work upon, as upon a task or problem, or some object of labor or investigation.
  4. To begin to affect; to begin to act upon, injuriously or destructively; to begin to decompose or waste.
    On the fourth of March he was attacked by fever. Macaulay.
    Hydrofluoric acid . . . attacks the glass. B. Stewart.
    Syn. -- To Attack, Assail, Assault, Invade. These words all denote a violent onset; attack being the generic term, and the others specific forms of attack. To attack is to commence the onset; to assail is to make a sudden and violent attack, or to make repeated attacks; to assault (literally, to leap upon) is to attack physically by a had-to-hand approach or by unlawful and insulting violence; to invade is to enter by force on what belongs to another. Thus, a person may attack by offering violence of any kind; he may assail by means of missile weapons; he may assault by direct personal violence; a king may invade by marching an army into a country. Figuratively, we may say, men attack with argument or satire; they assail with abuse or reproaches; they may be assaulted by severe temptations; the rights of the people may be invaded by the encroachments of the crown.
At*tack" intransitive verb
  1. To make an onset or attack.
At*tack" noun
Cf. F. attaque.
  1. The act of attacking, or falling on with force or violence; an onset; an assault; -- opposed to defense.
  2. An assault upon one's feelings or reputation with unfriendly or bitter words.
  3. A setting to work upon some task, etc.
  4. An access of disease; a fit of sickness.
  5. The beginning of corrosive, decomposing, or destructive action, by a chemical agent.

Webster 1913