From Middle English onfal, onfalle, equivalent to on- +‎ fall. Cognate with Dutch aanval (an attack, assault), German Anfall (an attack, seizure, fit), Swedish anfall (an attack, offensive, assault). Compare also Middle English onfallynge (an onslaught, attack).


onfall (plural onfalls)

  1. A falling on or upon; an attack, onset, or assault.
    • 1837, Thomas Carlyle, The French Revolution: A History [], volume (please specify |volume=I, II, or III), London: Chapman and Hall Limited, OCLC 1026761782, (please specify the book or page number):
      Are we to have military onfall; and death also by starvation?
    • 1906, William Henry Fitchett, Wesley and his century: a study in spiritual forces:
      The onfall of the bishops had helped to wreck this possibility, [...]
    • 2004, James Legge, The Shih King:
      Along with your 'brethren, Get ready your scaling ladders, And your engines of onfall and assault, To attack the walls of Khung.
    • 2008, Arthur Conan Doyle, The White Company:
      Six great land battles I count, with four upon the sea, and seven-and-fifty onfalls, skirmishes and bushments.
  2. A fall of rain or snow.
  3. The fall of the evening.


onfall (third-person singular simple present onfalls, present participle onfalling, simple past onfell, past participle onfallen)

  1. (transitive) To fall on or upon.
    • 1889, Harry Marshall Ward, Diseases of plants:
      [...] have been formed and ripened in large numbers, especially on the shaded ower sides of the leaves, the mycelium is practically exhausted, and as these processes are completed towards the end of the summer, the leaf so onfalls.
    • 1992, Edgar C. Polomé, Werner Winter, Reconstructing languages and cultures:
      'the temple caught fire from the onfallen lightning' [...]
    • 2008, V. V. Adushkin, Ivan Nemchinov, Catastrophic events caused by cosmic objects:
      Quasivertical and quasihorizontal faults filled with crushed rocks can substantially change the amplitude of a seismic wave behind the fault in comparison with the amplitude of an onfalling wave [...]
  2. (transitive) To assault, attack.