Definition of attack in English:

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Pronunciation: /əˈtak/


[with object]
1Take aggressive action against (a place or enemy forces) with weapons or armed force, typically in a battle or war: in December, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor [no object]: Italian forces attacked in October
More example sentences
  • The government deployed additional military forces to attack terrorist strongholds.
  • While the band was waiting for authorization to enter the States as working musicians, terrorists attacked the World Trade Centre.
  • The Blackfoot became respected as an aggressive military force, attacking and destroying several trading posts in their territory.
strike, charge, pounce;
bombard, shell, blitz, strafe, fire, besiege
1.1(Of a person or animal) act against (someone or something) aggressively in an attempt to injure or kill: a doctor was attacked by two youths
More example sentences
  • Police said the man was shot and killed when he attempted to attack police.
  • She also assured us that the jaguar is not a man-eater - in fact there are no recorded cases of a person being attacked or killed by a jaguar in an unprovoked situation.
  • But immediately after the elections violence broke out and several houses were set on fire and people were attacked and killed.
assault, assail, set upon, beat up;
batter, pummel, punch
informal do over, work over, rough up
1.2(Of a disease, chemical substance, or insect) act harmfully on: HIV is thought to attack certain cells in the brain
More example sentences
  • Leaves attacked by insects or disease, on the other hand, die under duress, spotted and curled.
  • The lack of nutrients in the white-sand soil means that plants cannot afford to be attacked by insects, because lost leaf tissue is difficult to replace.
  • Relieving stress made sense to me because in my work I had seen that plants under stress were the ones most likely to be attacked by diseases and pests.
1.3Criticize or oppose fiercely and publicly: he attacked the government’s defense policy
More example sentences
  • The play was fiercely attacked by critics and made headline news in the tabloids.
  • She is now making a television programme which attacks those who oppose fox hunting.
  • He was fiercely attacked, and even some figures who privately sympathized with his views were too cowed to defend him publicly.
criticize, censure, condemn, pillory, savage, revile, vilify
informal knock, slam, blast, bash, lay into
1.4Begin to deal with (a problem or task) in a determined and vigorous way: a plan of action to attack unemployment
More example sentences
  • Is there something that you would suggest be put in place that would begin to attack that problem?
  • Overnight some of the mail team began attacking the problem.
  • If we truly want to effect change on an aging business practice and culture, we need to attack the problem from both within and without.
address, attend to, deal with, confront, apply oneself to, get to work on, undertake, embark on
informal get cracking on
1.5 [no object] Make an aggressive or forceful attempt to score a goal or point, or gain or exploit an advantage in a game against an opposing team or player: (as adjective attacking) the home team showed some good attacking play
More example sentences
  • England scored in the first half, then tried to defend the advantage in the second half, but Brazil attacked well and scored twice.
  • It's being played at a terrific pace by two teams intent on attacking.
  • The crowds get excited when their teams attack - even when they are winning.
1.6 Chess Move into or be in a position to capture (an opponent’s piece).
Example sentences
  • A Queen move which attacks a guarded pawn is not usually a threat since taking the pawn next move usually results in loss of material.
  • But this resulted in the immediate loss of a piece as Adams took a pawn with his bishop attacking the black queen.
  • No matter how many times he attacks the pawn, White can defend.


1An aggressive and violent action against a person or place: he was killed in an attack on a checkpoint three classrooms were gutted in the arson attack
More example sentences
  • They were shot as they launched an attack on the police station using guns and a bomb in the bucket of a mechanical digger.
  • Last week, terrorists launched an attack on government facilities in Saudi Arabia.
  • Five teenagers have been charged following an attack on a police officer which left him needing 10 stitches to his head.
assault, onslaught, offensive, strike, blitz, raid, charge, rush, invasion, incursion
1.1Destructive action by a disease, chemical, or insect: the tissue is open to attack by fungus
More example sentences
  • Second, look at the underlying cause related to the pest or disease attack.
  • Potatoes, particularly varieties grown for seed, are treated with insecticide to control attack from aphids.
  • Helps plants withstand attacks by disease and insects by enhancing naturally occurring microbial agents.
1.2A sudden short bout of an illness or stress: an attack of nausea an asthma attack
More example sentences
  • There was a past history of migraine attacks and bouts of coughing.
  • The illness results in recurrent attacks of chills and fever and can be deadly.
  • Collins suffered from severe attacks of a rheumatic illness which caused him great pain, only relieved by the use of opium.
fit, seizure, spasm, convulsion, paroxysm, outburst, bout
1.3An instance of fierce public criticism or opposition: he launched a stinging attack on the White House
More example sentences
  • His sporadic cinematic output has been combined with fierce public attacks on the general media situation.
  • The Opposition Leader intensified his attack on the Prime Minister, insisting he had lied to the public.
  • In a fierce attack on both Labour and the Tories, he urged all parties to reach a consensus on how the NHS should be managed.
criticism, censure, rebuke, admonishment, reprimand;
condemnation, denunciation, vilification;
tirade, diatribe, polemic
informal roasting, caning, hatchet job
1.4A determined attempt to tackle a problem or task: an attack on inflation
More example sentences
  • I am determined to use my national responsibilities to launch a concerted attack on truancy and ill discipline in schools.
  • They generated a high-profile attack on muggers, which involved every interested government department.
  • In this context, it is much more than a scientific venture: it is a direct attack on poverty and the disparities between rich and poor.
1.5 Music The manner of beginning to play or sing a passage.
Example sentences
  • The shaping of phrases is largely dependent on articulation, particularly on keyboard instruments, where finely controlled attack and decay on individual notes is prescribed
  • She discusses the three uses of the diaphragm: on the attack of the first note, on the high / low note and on the last note.
1.6Forceful and decisive style in performing music or another art: the sheer attack of Hendrix’s playing
More example sentences
  • I think the energy of it, not having an intermission on stage, and just the harsh sonic attack of the music, was great.
  • There's a sharpness and attack to her performances, which ensures a sense of drive.
1.7An aggressive attempt to score a goal, win points, or gain or exploit an advantage in a game.
Example sentences
  • Smith dominated play from the start but after numerous attacks on goal failed to score.
  • There was no sense of urgency from either team in the first half, with the game characterised by sporadic attacks at goals.
  • Dundee grew ragged under the weight of repeated attacks on their goal.
1.8 Chess A threat to capture an opponent’s piece.
Example sentences
  • In the Yugoslav it is generally correct for Black to attack with pieces and not pawns, because pawn attacks tend to be too slow.
  • Herbert Lockwood, who sacrificed a piece for two pawns and an attack that his opponent could not defend, gained the final point.
  • White has two ways of giving up a piece for the attack in the main line, and they're both looking as deadly as ever.


under attack

Subject to aggressive, violent, or harmful action: his paintings have come under attack for their satanic content
More example sentences
  • Police chasing two car thieves came under attack from a crowd of 60 youths.
  • Like many people, the President finds it difficult to admit a mistake, particularly when under attack on all sides.
  • It is a telling sign of the times that Hersh is once again under attack for his reporting.


Early 17th century: from French attaque (noun), attaquer (verb), from Italian attacco 'an attack', attaccare 'join battle', based on an element of Germanic origin (see attach).

  • This is from French attaquer (from Italian attaccare ‘join battle’). The base is an element of Germanic origin shared by attach (Middle English); ‘joining’ is a key sense.

Words that rhyme with attack

aback, alack, back, black, brack, clack, claque, crack, Dirac, drack, flack, flak, hack, jack, Kazakh, knack, lack, lakh, mac, mach, Nagorno-Karabakh, pack, pitchblack, plaque, quack, rack, sac, sack, shack, shellac, slack, smack, snack, stack, tach, tack, thwack, track, vac, wack, whack, wrack, yak, Zack

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: at·tack

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