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From Middle English assailen, from Old French asaillir, from Latin assiliō, from ad (towards) + saliō (to jump). See also assault.



assail (third-person singular simple present assails, present participle assailing, simple past and past participle assailed)

  1. (transitive) To attack with harsh words or violent force.
    Muggers assailed them as they entered an alley.
    • c. 1390, John Wycliffe, transl., Josiah Forshall; Frederic Madden, editor, The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, with the Apocryphal Books, in the Earliest English Versions (Wycliffe's Bible), volume II, Oxford UP, published 1850, I. Paralipomenon VII.21, page 334, column 2:
      Forsothe men of Geth borun in the lond killiden hem, for thei ȝeden doun to assaile her possessiouns.
      Forsooth, men of Gath born in the land killed him, for they went down to assail her possessions.
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Qveene. [], London: Printed [by John Wolfe] for VVilliam Ponsonbie, OCLC 960102938, book I, canto VI, page 76:
      So when he ſaw his flatt’ring artes to ſayle, / And ſubtile engines bett from batteree, / With greedy force he gan the fort aſſayle, / Whereof he weend poſſeſe ſoone to bee / And win rich ſpoile of ranſackt chaſtitee.
    • 1897, Saki [Hector Hugh Munro], “The Storyteller”:
      For the next six months or so those children will assail her in public with demands for an improper story!