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Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.
(See the entry for assault in
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.)


From Middle English assaut, from Old French noun assaut, from the verb asaillir, from Latin assiliō, from ad (towards) + saliō (to jump). See also assail. Spelling Latinized around 1530 to add an l.



assault (countable and uncountable, plural assaults)

  1. A violent onset or attack with physical means, for example blows, weapons, etc.
    to make assault upon a man, a house, or a town
    • 1856-1858, William H. Prescott, History of the Reign of Philip II
      The Spanish general prepared to renew the assault.
    • 1814, William Wordsworth, The Excursion, Book 5
      Unshaken bears the assault / Of their most dreaded foe, the strong southwest.
  2. A violent onset or attack with moral weapons, for example words, arguments, appeals, and the like
    to make an assault on the prerogatives of a prince, or on the constitution of a government
  3. (criminal law) An attempt to commit battery: a violent attempt, or willful effort with force or violence, to do hurt to another, but without necessarily touching his person, as by lifting a fist in a threatening manner, or by striking at him and missing him.
  4. (singular only, law) The crime whose action is such an attempt.
  5. (tort law) An act that causes someone to apprehend imminent bodily harm.
  6. (singular only, law) The tort whose action is such an act.
  7. (fencing) A non-competitive combat between two fencers.


Coordinate terms[edit]

Derived terms[edit]



assault (third-person singular simple present assaults, present participle assaulting, simple past and past participle assaulted)

  1. (transitive) To attack, physically or figuratively; to assail.
    Tom was accused of assaulting another man outside a nightclub.
    Loud music assaulted our ears as we entered the building.
  2. (transitive) To threaten or harass. (Can we add an example for this sense?)


Middle French[edit]


assault m (plural assauls)

  1. (chiefly military) assault; attack