1. To fall upon with force; to assail, as with force and arms; to assault. "Attack their lines."

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 labour 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)

Synonyms: 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.

Origin: F. Attaquer, orig. Another form of attacher to attack: cf. It. Attacare to fasten, attack. See Attach, Tack a small nail.

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.

Origin: Cf. F. Attaque.

(01 Mar 1998)