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From Old French assaillant, from the verb assaillir, from Late Latin assalīre, from Latin ad (to, towards) + salīre (to jump). Equivalent to assail +‎ -ant.



assailant (plural assailants)

  1. Someone who attacks or assails another violently, or criminally.
    Synonym: attacker
    • c. 1598–1600 (date written), William Shakespeare, “As You Like It”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act I, scene iii]:
      I’ll put myself in poor and mean attire,
      And with a kind of umber smirch my face;
      The like do you; so shall we pass along,
      And never stir assailants.
    • 1789, Olaudah Equiano, chapter 2, in The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano[1], volume 1, London: for the author, page 47:
      [] commonly some of us used to get up a tree to look out for any assailant, or kidnapper, that might come upon us; for they sometimes took those opportunities of our parents absence to attack and carry off as many as they could seize.
    • 1855, Frederick Douglass, chapter 17, in My Bondage and My Freedom. [], New York, Auburn, N.Y.: Miller, Orton & Mulligan [], →OCLC, part I (Life as a Slave), page 244:
      [] just as he leaned over to get the stick, I seized him with both hands by the collar, and, with a vigorous and sudden snatch, I brought my assailant harmlessly, his full length, on the not over clean ground—for we were now in the cow yard.
    • 1935, Christopher Isherwood, chapter 8, in Mr. Norris Changes Trains[2], Penguin, published 1961, page 89:
      In the middle of a crowded street a young man would be attacked, stripped, thrashed, and left bleeding on the pavement; in fifteen seconds it was all over and the assailants had disappeared.
    • 2018, Edo Konrad, “Living in the constant shadow of settler violence”, in +972 Magazine:
      In the village of Aqraba, the Sheikh Saadeh Mosque was set on fire before the assailants graffitied the words “price tag” and “revenge” on its walls.
  2. (figuratively, by extension) A hostile critic or opponent.
    • 1782, Frances Burney, Cecilia, London: T. Payne and Son and T. Cadell, Volume 5, Book 9, Chapter 3, p. 41,[3]
      [] the assailants of the quill have their honour as much at heart as the assailants of the sword.



assailant (not comparable)

  1. Assailing; attacking.
    • 1671, John Milton, Samson Agonistes, line 1687 to 1696:
      But he though blind of sight, / Despis'd, and thought extinguish'd quite, / With inward eyes illuminated, / His fiery virtue roused / From under ashes into sudden flame, / And as an evening dragon came, / Assailant on the perched roosts / And nests in order ranged / Of tame villatic fowl, but as an eagle / His cloudless thunder bolted on their heads.