9 Grammatical Pitfalls


[uh-seyl] /əˈseɪl/
verb (used with object)
to attack vigorously or violently; assault.
to attack with arguments, criticism, ridicule, abuse, etc.:
to assail one's opponent with slander.
to undertake with the purpose of mastering:
He assailed his studies with new determination.
to impinge upon; make an impact on; beset:
His mind was assailed by conflicting arguments. The light assailed their eyes.
Origin of assail
1175-1225; Middle English asaylen < Old French asalir < Late Latin assalīre, equivalent to Latin as- as- + salīre to leap, spring
Related forms
assailable, adjective
assailableness, noun
assailer, noun
assailment, noun
unassailed, adjective
unassailing, adjective
1. See attack. 2. asperse, malign. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for assail
  • The director leaves no doubt about his feelings for those who assail his movies or his actions.
  • But the depth and breadth of his experience give him an authority that is hard to assail.
  • Some critics were quick to assail the new policy as inadequate.
  • Violent coughing fits assail old and young.
  • Now a wave of litigation threatens to assail them.
  • The thing to remember when such fears assail you is that bad health is not inevitable at any age.
  • Many others assail it as barbaric.
  • They desired to give a figure which no defending attorney could assail.
  • She did this to defend herself, and not to assail the plaintiff.
  • Uncontrollable events may assail them — accidents of fate, health or weather.
British Dictionary definitions for assail


verb (transitive)
to attack violently; assault
to criticize or ridicule vehemently, as in argument
to beset or disturb: his mind was assailed by doubts
to encounter with the intention of mastering: to assail a problem, to assail a difficult mountain ridge
Derived Forms
assailable, adjective
assailer, noun
assailment, noun
Word Origin
C13: from Old French asalir, from Vulgar Latin assalīre (unattested) to leap upon, from Latin assilīre, from salīre to leap
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for assail

c.1200, from Old French assalir "attack, assault, assail" (12c., Modern French assaillir), from Vulgar Latin *adsalire "to leap at," from Latin ad- "at" (see ad-) + salire "to leap" (see salient (adj.)). Figurative use from mid-14c. Related: Assailed; assailing; assailable.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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