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[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
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Horror of an inconceivable monstrosity began to assail me: was I following through the dark an unheard of hideousness?

    Lilith George MacDonald
  • If you assail me by the brain, I may attack you at the heart!

    Sir Brook Fossbrooke, Volume I. Charles James Lever
  • If they say that no man should be killed for an apple, they assail the morality of Catholics.

  • What temptations would not assail her,—by what flatteries would she not be beset!

    Sir Jasper Carew Charles James Lever
  • They are severally commissioned to assail his intended victims with every variety of temptation.

  • In that way he has the advantage of any enemy who may assail them.

    The Plant Hunters Mayne Reid
  • Three assailants crept toward him, and his position was such that two at least could assail him front and rear.

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
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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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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