Word of the Day – Assail

Word of the Day: May 29, 2020

assail

verb – uh-SAIL

Definition

  • 1 : to attack violently : assault
  • 2 : to encounter, undertake, or confront energetically
  • 3 : to oppose, challenge, or criticize harshly and forcefully
  • 4 a : to trouble or afflict in a manner that threatens to overwhelm
  • b : to be perceived by (a person, a person’s senses, etc.) in a strongly noticeable and usually unpleasant way

Did You Know?

Assail comes from an Anglo-French verb, assaillir, which itself traces back to the Latin verb assilire (“to leap upon”). Assilire combines the prefix ad-(“to, toward”) with the Latin verb salire, meaning “to leap.” (Salire is the root of a number of English words related to jumping or leaping, such as somersault and sally, as well as assault, a synonym of assail.) When assailwas first used in the 13th century, it meant “to make a violent physical attack upon.” By the early 15th century, English speakers were using the term to mean “to attack with words or arguments.” Now the verb can refer to any kind of aggressive encounter, even if it is not necessarily violent or quarrelsome, as in “Upon entering the room, we were assailed by a horrible odor.”

Examples

Most worthwhile achievements require that one persevere even when assailed by doubts.

“What does it even mean to be good in a world as complex as ours, when great inequity remains unaddressed and often seems too daunting to assail, and when seemingly benign choices—which shoes to buy, which fruit to eat—can come with the moral baggage of large carbon footprints or the undercompensated labor of migrant workers?” — Nancy Kaffer, The Detroit (Michigan) Free Press, 9 Jan. 2020

Merriam-Webster Word of the Day