Definition of assail in US English:



[with object]
  • 1Make a concerted or violent attack on.

    ‘the Scots army assailed Edward's army from the rear’
    • ‘Yet her next note spoke of storms assailing the cottage and turbulence of fears and loneliness.’
    • ‘So the same Opposition that's assailing the Government for not dealing with crime would go ballistic if they found out that the Minister and his men were using unorthodox methods to rid us of the devils in the society.’
    • ‘They spread hatred for us with a psychotic mass murderer and then they assailed the capital and when we moved to accost them they mysteriously withdrew.’
    • ‘As one historian wrote, ‘All forms of property were assailed, all signs of wealth and privilege were attacked.’’
    • ‘To attack the first is not to assail the last - said Charlotte Bronte, English novelist’
    • ‘They approached warily, as though the food might leap up and assail their gullets violently.’
    • ‘The two of them are seemingly set on assailing the South African population on as many fronts as possible.’
    • ‘Knowing that his brother is frail, and more suited to school than to the front, he assails the train that is destined to take his sibling to the front lines.’
    • ‘This was a particularly risky means of concluding a siege as the attackers using ladders would be continually assailed from above on their climb up the walls.’
    • ‘The crowd became angry and quickly began assailing the police.’
    • ‘The player is armed with a gun - most fortunately, because he is being assailed by a seemingly unending succession of zombies.’
    • ‘He is quickly running out of excuses as to why his ministry has failed to make a dent in the plethora of criminal activity assailing the country.’
    • ‘The sea does not split, nor does the earth swallow up the terrorists who assail us every day.’
    • ‘Only then would the Assault Transports assail the station with their mere 250 Marines.’
    • ‘The wind is blustering through the trees outside, and every so often assails the outside walls of my house as if testing their fortitude.’
    • ‘On Fifth and Sixth Avenues, cutting the length of Manhattan, are gauntlets of flag-sellers assailing vehicles at every stop light.’
    attack, assault, make an assault on, launch an attack on, pounce on, set upon, set about, launch oneself at, weigh into, fly at, let fly at, turn on, round on, lash out at, hit out at, beset, belabour, fall on, accost, mug, charge, rush, storm, besiege
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    1. 1.1usually be assailed (of an unpleasant feeling or physical sensation) come upon (someone) suddenly and strongly.
      ‘she was assailed by doubts and regrets’
      • ‘When doubts assailed him, he got many scriptural reinforcements: ‘It is I, be not afraid - be not faithless, but believing.’’
      • ‘Suddenly I was assailed by overwhelming apprehension.’
      • ‘As the old patterns die in their minds and the new ones begin to take shape, people are assailed by self-doubt and misgivings about their leaders.’
      • ‘He started to get up and groaned aloud as all sorts of aches and pains assailed him.’
      • ‘Whatever the cause, the patient is assailed by the terrifying feeling of being out of control.’
      • ‘As I visited old haunts I was once again assailed by familiar feelings of disgust.’
      • ‘The strain of looking at him hurts so I turn my eyes in an easier direction, doubt assailing me.’
      • ‘Mixed feelings could assail you in relation to love.’
      • ‘Suddenly, she was assailed with a wave of dizziness.’
      • ‘Ringing bells, whirring motors and flickering lights assailed the senses as one entered the darkened gallery from the street.’
      • ‘Suddenly, unwanted mental images assailed her, forcing her to swallow hard and blink to keep from reacting.’
      • ‘Beware of any impulses that assail you.’
      • ‘New emotions assailed her so strongly she dropped to her knees with a moan.’
      • ‘As you finally ascend the topmost mast, a faint vertigo assails you, but the adrenaline is buzzing.’
      • ‘For example, over a good fifty yards of my walk to the station today I was assailed by an unbelievably strong smell… of Parmesan.’
      • ‘We believe, though we are constantly assailed with doubt.’
      • ‘However, when he woke up the following morning he was assailed by what he thought was ‘an unusual resinous smell’.’
      • ‘Terrors assailed him, tumbling over one another.’
      • ‘He slid his arm around her and pulled her closer, closing his eyes under the feelings assailing him.’
      • ‘I remember the feelings that assailed me when I heard about the crash, even before the humanising details emerged - the names, the ages, the family circumstances.’
      trouble, disturb, worry, plague, beset, torture, torment, rack, bedevil, nag, vex, harass, pester, dog
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    2. 1.2 Criticize (someone) strongly.
      • ‘The red-baiting demagogue who publicly made wild, unsubstantiated charges assailing victims' patriotism proved no match for the fact-checking investigative reporter.’
      • ‘That statement assailed his position against abortion, contraception, sterilization, women's rights, divorce, stem cell research and gay rights.’
      • ‘Critics have assailed the law since its inception.’
      • ‘It also assails the ideas of size and ingenuity, and, significantly, calls for full corporate compliance with a growing body of state regulation.’
      • ‘The book sold well and rapidly became fashionable, but was assailed in various critical pamphlets for length, tedium, and doubtful morality.’
      • ‘The energetic outsiders were true-blue conservatives who assailed the old guard and occasionally defeated their incumbents in primaries or as third-party challengers.’
      • ‘I also conveyed our deep regret over the tendency of some Australian officials to continue to defy the policies by assailing the policies of other countries.’
      • ‘I didn't expect Tim to actually like the show (since he usually assails everything I watch with a sort of good-humoured mockery), but he'd sit down and watch it with me and even ask me to tape it when he had to go out.’
      • ‘Moving with precise coordination, the Arbiters pounced upon their prey, assailing him with stinging strikes of their daggers.’
      • ‘Critics assailed the commission, as well as a number of state and local organizations, for commercializing centennial activities.’
      • ‘Critics have assailed the lack of political leadership in all this.’
      • ‘The film succeeds a little, if without imagination, in assailing the assumptions and hypocrisy of privileged white folks, but the film indulges its own presuppositions.’
      • ‘Before the last elections, lawmakers of both parties were on their hind legs assailing these traitors, promising action!’
      • ‘At a time when the Government is assailed by criticism and controversy, and when the Prime Minister's reputation is under such continuous attack, one would expect the opposition to be riding on a wave of success.’
      • ‘Twelve percentage points behind in the polls, assailed by the left of his party for being too strident in reforming the welfare state, and with virtually every leader of industry set against him, things are looking up.’
      • ‘Why take risks, when the very name of the opera secures sold-out performances, assuming the critics don't assail it, or the conservative crowds don't shun it?’
      • ‘Beyond the forces of sheer entertainment, the director doesn't pull punches in his assailing the church.’
      • ‘Although the open admissions policy was weakened, its critics continued to assail it.’
      • ‘He assails the flow of private money into campaigns; he sides with portions of the corporate political agenda.’
      criticize, censure, attack, condemn, castigate, chastise, berate, lambaste, lash, pillory, find fault with, abuse, revile, give someone a bad press
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Middle English: from Old French asaill-, stressed stem of asalir, from medieval Latin assalire, from Latin assilire, from ad- ‘to’ + salire ‘to leap’; compare with assault.