attack


attack
attack vb Attack, assail, assault, bombard, storm are comparable not only in their military but also in their extended senses. All carry as their basic meaning to make a more or less violent onset upon.
Attack originally connoted a fastening upon something as a beast of prey fastens upon its victim. It now implies aggression or aggressiveness in all its senses and usually the initiative in entering into an engagement or struggle (as with a person or thing that is opposed or that one intends to conquer)
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plan to attack the enemy at dawn

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attacked the position of his opponents in a debate

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attack a problem in engineering

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they lack the courage to attack their other studies with the vigor requisite to success— Grandgent

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it had become increasingly apparent that the logical method of eradicating disease was to attack it at its source— Heiser

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Assail suggests the action of one who would conquer by force of repeated blows rather than by brute strength. Its chief distinction from attack is in this suggestion of repetition of means (as blows, strokes, shots, or thrusts) of breaking down resistance
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assail an enemy with shells

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assail with reproaches

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assailed by temptations

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property interests . . . assailed by attempts to put industry upon a more reasonable and more equitable footing— Hobson

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old pains keep on gnawing at your heart, old desires . . . old dreams, assailing youConrad

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Assault implies close contact or a direct confrontation; in contrast with assail, it suggests the use of brute strength and an attempt to overpower by suddenness and violence of onslaught
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I assault a person with a club

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assault a stronghold on all sides

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while other aircraft assaulted supply buildings— N. Y. Times

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a universal hubbub wild of stunning sounds . . . assaults his ear— Milton

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Bombard literally means to assail continuously and devastatingly with bombs or shells
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the advancing German army in 1914 expected to bombard Paris and bring a quick end to the war

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It is, in its stronger implication of importunity or of continuous pestering, distinguishable from assail
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he bombarded Cicero with letters asking for advice— Buchan

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the reporters bombarded the district attorney with questions

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Storm means to assault with the violence, rush, and effectiveness of a sudden and devastating storm or wind; it connotes an attempt to sweep from its path every obstacle to a victory
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several of their bravest officers were shot down in the act of storming the fortress— lrving

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who think to storm the world by dint of merit— Burns

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Analogous words: fight, *contend, battle, war: beset, overrun (see INFEST): *surprise, waylay, ambush
Contrasted words: *defend, shield, guard, protect: *resist, withstand, oppose, combat
attack n 1 Attack, assault, onslaught, onset denote an attempt made on another or on others to injure, destroy, or defame.
An attack may be upon the physical person or it may be upon the character, the reputation, or the writings of a person or persons; it often suggests animosity or definite enmity as its cause, but it may imply motives as various as wanton cruelty, partisan feeling, or a critical intention
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the victim of a cowardly attack by hoodlums

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the speech was a severe attack upon the policies of the administration

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the book was the object of attacks from all sides

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an unprovoked attack upon the fairness of the court

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Assault implies more violence, more malice or viciousness, and often the infliction of greater damage or less reparable damage than attack. However, an assault upon the person is legally an apparently violent attempt or a willful offer with force or violence to injure or hurt that person physically. When the hurt has been inflicted, the precise legal term for the act is assault and battery. Rape is sometimes specifically called an assault. In military language an assault is sometimes distinguished from an attack upon the enemy, the former term being applied only to the last phase of an attack or offensive movement, when the aggressors close upon their opponents and the issue is determined. Usually assault and attack are not clearly distinguishable except in emphasis; thus, an assault upon a person’s character suggests violent emotion (as hatred or vindictiveness); an attack upon a person’s character need not imply strong feeling as its motive
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the passage . . . shows how alarmed a Hegelian may be by an assault upon the authority of science— lnge

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Onslaught suggests a vigorous and destructive method of attack; it usually implies an attempt to overwhelm by force of momentum or of numbers or by the fury of the assault
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the defenders, taken by surprise, were unable to repel the onslaught

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no play can withstand such an onslaught from the critics

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he sees I am no man to take rebuff . . . . quick to the onslaught, out sword, cut and thrust!— Browning

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Onset is applicable not only to the first furious rush that initiates an attack (as an offensive movement, an act of aggression, or a fit of illness) but to any such succeeding rush that marks a renewal of vigor in the attack
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at the onset, the twelfth regiment bore the brunt of the attack

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a pause in the fighting gave the officers time to rally their scattered troops and to prepare for a fresh onset from the enemy

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at every onset of the gale convulsive sounds came from the branches— Hardy

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Analogous words: action, *battle: striking, hitting, smiting, slugging (see STRIKE): criticism, condemnation, denouncing or denunciation (see corresponding verbs at CRITICIZE)
Contrasted words: defending or defense, vindication, justification (see corresponding verbs at MAINTAIN): resistance, opposition (see corresponding verbs at RESIST)
2 Attack, aggression, offense, offensive and their corresponding adjectives attacking, aggressive, offensive denote or describe action in a struggle for supremacy which must be met with defense or by means of defenses. The terms are used not only of military operations but of competitive games or exhibitions of skill (as in boxing and fencing).
Attack implies the initiation of action; commonly, also, it suggests an attempt to catch the enemy or opposition off guard and therefore connotes suddenness, and often violence, of onset
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the first raiding attack was . . . repulsed with heavy losses— H. G. Wells

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Aggression, which also implies initiation of hostile action, stresses rather a lack of provocation and a desire for conquest or domination. Attack is applicable to any movement or action in a series of operations; aggression is applied chiefly to a war or to a type of fighting that involves invasion or encroachment on another’s territory and usually further connotes a determination to maintain the advantage of the attacking side
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pledged never to fight in a war of aggression

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the business of government is to check aggression only— Smith

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an aggressive war, as distinguished from mere plundering inroads— Freeman

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Offense and offensive characterize the position or the methods of the attacking side. The noun is interchangeable with attack only when the latter word does not refer to a concrete action; thus, one may speak of methods of attack (or of offense) as contrasted with methods of defense but one would use “a war of offense” (rather than of attack) and “readiness for an attack’’ (rather than for an offense). Both words are distinguishable from aggression and aggressive, which in many ways they closely resemble, by their absence of suggestion of any motive or aim other than that of a desire for supremacy. Offensive implies vigorously aggressive action especially in war; thus, when taking the offensive one carries on offensive operations. Offensive may also denote a particular campaign or episode marked by such action
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an economic offensive can often prevent the necessity for a more costly military defense— Draper

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to be offensive means to carry the war to the enemy. And this as well is the most effective sort of defense— Ageton

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3 *fit, access, accession, paroxysm, spasm, convulsion

New Dictionary of Synonyms. 2014.

Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Attack — At*tack , v. t. [imp. & p. p. {Attacked}; p. pr. & vb. n. {Attacking}.] [F. attaquer, orig. another form of attacher to attack: cf. It. attacare to fasten, attack. See {Attach}, {Tack} a small nail.] 1. To fall upon with force; to assail, as with …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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