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 (also figuratively).
    Muggers assailed them as they entered an alley.
    Our ears were assailed by her joyous efforts on her new saxophone.
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, London: William Ponsonby, Book 1, Canto 6, pp. 76-77,[1]
      With greedy force he gan the fort assayle,
      Whereof he weend possesse soone to bee,
      And win rich spoile of ransackt chastitee.
    • c. 1600, William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act I, Scene 1,[2]
      [] let us once again assail your ears,
      That are so fortified against our story,
      What we two nights have seen.
    • 1897, Saki, “The Story-teller” in Beasts and Super-beasts, London: John Lane, 1914, p. 238,[3]
      [] for the next six months or so those children will assail her in public with demands for an improper story!”
    • 1942, Zora Neale Hurston, Dust Tracks on a Road, New York: Arno Press and The New York Times, 1969, Chapter 14, p. 258,[4]
      We got married immediately after I finished my work [] which should have been the happiest day of my life. [] ¶ But, it was not my happiest day. I was assailed by doubts.
    • 2007, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Wizard of the Crow, Nairobo: East African Educational Publishers, Book 2, Chapter 3, p. 64,[5]
      He did not like being in crowds, foul smells galore assailing his nostrils.

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