From Middle English assaut, from Old French noun assaut, from the verb asaillir, from Latin assiliō, from ad (towards) + saliō (to jump). See also assail. Spelling Latinized around 1530 to add an l.



assault (countable and uncountable, plural assaults)

  1. A violent onset or attack with physical means, for example blows, weapons, etc.
    The army made an assault on the enemy.
    • 1856-1858, William H. Prescott, History of the Reign of Philip II:
      The Spanish general prepared to renew the assault.
    • 1814, William Wordsworth, The Excursion, Book 5
      Unshaken bears the assault / Of their most dreaded foe, the strong southwest.
  2. A violent verbal attack, for example with insults, criticism, and the like
    she launched a written assault on the opposition party
  3. (criminal law) An attempt to commit battery: a violent attempt, or willful effort with force or violence, to do hurt to another, but without necessarily touching the person, such as by raising a fist in a threatening manner, or by striking at the person and missing.
  4. (singular only, law) The crime whose action is such an attempt.
  5. (tort law) An act that causes someone to apprehend imminent bodily harm.
  6. (singular only, law) The tort whose action is such an act.
  7. (fencing) A non-competitive combat between two fencers.


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assault (third-person singular simple present assaults, present participle assaulting, simple past and past participle assaulted)

  1. (transitive) To attack, physically or figuratively; to assail.
    Tom was accused of assaulting another man outside a nightclub.
    Loud music assaulted our ears as we entered the building.
  2. (transitive) To threaten or harass. (Can we add an example for this sense?)

Derived termsEdit



Middle FrenchEdit


assault m (plural assauls)

  1. (chiefly military) assault; attack