Meaning of ATTACK in English


I. at ‧ tack 1 S2 W2 /əˈtæk/ BrE AmE noun

[ Word Family: noun : ↑ attack , ↑ counterattack , ↑ attacker ; verb : ↑ attack , ↑ counterattack ; adjective : attacking, counterattacking]

1 . VIOLENCE AGAINST SOMEBODY/SOMETHING [countable] an act of violence that is intended to hurt a person or damage a place

attack on

There have been several attacks on foreigners recently.

a bomb attack

a knife attack

an arson attack (=an attempt to destroy a building using fire)

victims of racial attacks

2 . IN A WAR [uncountable and countable] the act of using weapons against an enemy in a war:

The attack began at dawn.

attack on

the attack on Pearl Harbor

be/come under attack

Once again we came under attack from enemy fighter planes.

Rebel forces launched (=started) an attack late Sunday night.

air/missile/nuclear etc attack

the threat of nuclear attack

3 . CRITICISM [uncountable and countable] a strong and direct criticism of someone or something

attack on

The magazine recently published a vicious personal attack on the novelist.

be/come under attack (=be strongly criticized)

The company has come under fierce attack for its decision to close the factory.

go on the attack (=start to criticize someone severely)

4 . ILLNESS [countable] a sudden short period of suffering from an illness, especially an illness that you have often

attack of

I had a bad attack of flu at Christmas.

He died after suffering a severe asthma attack.

⇨ ↑ heart attack

5 . EMOTION [countable] a short period of time when you suddenly feel extremely frightened or worried and cannot think normally or deal with the situation

panic/anxiety attack

Her heart began to pound frantically, as if she were having a panic attack.

attack of

a sudden attack of nerves

6 . ATTEMPT TO STOP SOMETHING [uncountable and countable] actions that are intended to get rid of or stop something such as a system, a set of laws etc

attack on

The new measures were seen by many as an attack on the Scottish way of life.


a) [uncountable and countable] an attempt by a player or group of players to score ↑ goal s or win points

b) British English [singular] the players in a team that are responsible for trying to score ↑ goal s or win points SYN offense American English ⇨ defence

in attack

Heath will play alongside Smith in attack.

8 . DAMAGE [uncountable and countable] when something such as a disease, insect, or chemical damages something:

Unfortunately, the carved ceilings have suffered woodworm attack over the years.

• • •

COLLOCATIONS (for Meaning 1)

■ NOUN + attack

▪ a bomb attack (=usually intended to achieve a political aim)

Animal rights activists are believed to have carried out the bomb attack.

▪ a terrorist attack

The accused men went on trial Monday for America’s worst-ever terrorist attack.

▪ a knife/gun attack

He was sentenced to nine years in prison for the knife attack.

▪ an arson attack (=intended to destroy a building by burning it)

Ten classrooms were completely destroyed in the arson attack.

■ adjectives

▪ a violent/vicious/brutal attack

Police described it as an extremely violent attack.

▪ a horrific attack

'This was a horrific attack,' said Detective Chief Superintendent Ron Astles.

▪ a frenzied attack (=very violent and uncontrolled)

The woman was stabbed to death in a frenzied attack at her home.

▪ a racial attack

Staffordshire police are treating the incident as a racial attack.

▪ a sexual attack

There was no indication of a sexual attack.

▪ an unprovoked attack (=in which the victim did nothing to cause the attack)

Their teenage son was knocked to the ground, kicked and punched in an unprovoked attack.

▪ a motiveless attack (=that happens for no reason)

He was stabbed to death in an apparently motiveless attack.

■ verbs

▪ carry out an attack

The man who carried out the attack has been described as white and 25 to 32 years old.

▪ an attack happens/takes place ( also an attack occurs formal )

The attack took place at around 10 pm Thursday.

■ phrases

▪ a series/spate/wave of attacks (=a number of attacks in a row)

The killing follows a series of brutal attacks on tourists.

▪ the victim of an attack

She was the victim of an attack in her own home.

• • •

COLLOCATIONS (for Meaning 2)


▪ a nuclear attack

They would not risk a nuclear attack on the United States.

▪ an all-out attack (=that is done with a lot of determination)

General Smith was in favour of an all-out attack on the enemy.

▪ a full-scale attack (=that uses all the available soldiers and weapons)

German troops launched a full-scale attack on the city.

▪ an armed attack

Armed attacks against Israeli settlements are on the increase.

▪ a surprise attack

We launched a surprise attack on their camp just before dawn.

▪ a missile/rocket/mortar attack

There were 15 dead and 20 wounded in a missile attack on the capital.

▪ an air/bomb attack (=an attack from a plane using bombs)

Malta was under heavy air attack.

■ verbs

▪ launch an attack

In April the French army launched an attack.

▪ lead/mount an attack

The King now prepared to mount an attack on Granada.

▪ come under attack

Camps in the south came under attack from pro-government forces.

▪ be under attack

He arrived when the base was under attack from mortar and small arms fire.

• • •


▪ attack noun [uncountable and countable] an act of using weapons against an enemy in a war:

The US was threatening to launch an attack on Iran.


The men had been carrying out rocket attacks on British forces.


Bombs have been falling throughout the night, and the city is still under attack (=being attacked) .

▪ invasion noun [uncountable and countable] an occasion when an army enters a country and tries to take control of it:

The Allies began their invasion of Europe.


The threat of foreign invasion is very real.

▪ raid noun [countable] a short attack on a place by soldiers or planes, intended to cause damage but not take control:

an air raid


NATO warplanes carried out a series of bombing raids on the city.


The village has been the target of frequent raids by rebel groups.

▪ strike noun [countable] a sudden military attack, especially after a serious disagreement:

Senior Israeli officials warned that they were still considering a military strike.


the possibility of a nuclear strike

▪ assault noun [countable] a military attack intended to take control of a city, area, or building controlled by an enemy:

The final military assault on Kwangju began at 3 am on May 27.


Hitler launched an all-out assault (=using as many soldiers, weapons, planes etc as possible) on Russia.

▪ ambush noun [uncountable and countable] a sudden attack by people who have been waiting and hiding, especially an attack on a vehicle or people who are travelling somewhere:

Five soldiers were shot in the back and killled in the ambush.


Enemy forces waiting in ambush opened fire on the vehicle.

▪ counterattack noun [uncountable and countable] a military attack made in response to an attack by an enemy:

Government forces launched a counterattack against the guerillas.


If they successfully occupied the city, they would need to be capable of defending it against enemy counterattack.

▪ onslaught noun [countable] formal a large violent attack by an army:

In 1544 there was a full-scale onslaught on France, in which the English took Boulogne.


The troops were preparing for another onslaught against the enemy.

II. attack 2 S3 W2 BrE AmE verb

[ Word Family: noun : ↑ attack , ↑ counterattack , ↑ attacker ; verb : ↑ attack , ↑ counterattack ; adjective : attacking, counterattacking]

[ Date: 1600-1700 ; Language: French ; Origin: attaquer , from Old Italian attaccare 'to attach' , from stacca 'sharp post' ]

1 . USE VIOLENCE [intransitive and transitive] to deliberately use violence to hurt a person or damage a place:

She was attacked while walking home late at night.

His shop was attacked by a gang of youths.

Snakes will only attack if you disturb them.

attack somebody/something with something

He needed 200 stitches after being attacked with a broken bottle.

2 . IN A WAR [intransitive and transitive] to start using guns, bombs etc against an enemy in a war:

Army tanks attacked a village near the capital on Sunday.

3 . CRITICIZE [transitive] to criticize someone or something very strongly:

Last year Dr Travis publicly attacked the idea that abortion should be available on demand.

attack somebody for (doing) something

Newspapers attacked the government for failing to cut taxes.

strongly/bitterly/savagely etc attack somebody/something

4 . DAMAGE [transitive] if something such as a disease, insect, or chemical attacks something, it damages it:

a cruel disease that attacks the brain and nervous system

5 . BEGIN DOING [transitive] to begin to do something in a determined and eager way:

She immediately set about attacking the problem.

Martin attacked his meal (=started eating) with vigour.

6 . SPORT [intransitive and transitive] to move forward and try to score ↑ goal s or win points ⇨ defend :

Brazil began to attack more in the second half of the match.

• • •


■ to attack a person

▪ attack to use violence against someone and try to hurt them:

She was attacked by a man with a baseball bat.


Police dogs are trained to attack.

▪ ambush /ˈæmbʊʃ/ if a group of people ambush someone, they hide and wait for them and then attack them:

The judge was ambushed by gunmen as he drove to work at the courthouse.

▪ mug to attack someone and take money from them in a public place such as a street:

He was mugged on his way home from school.

▪ stab to attack someone with a knife:

The victim had been stabbed in the neck.

▪ assault to attack and hurt someone – used especially when talking about this as a criminal ↑ offence :

He assaulted a flight attendant who refused to serve him more drinks.

▪ be set upon by somebody/something written to be attacked by a group of people:

He died outside his home after being set upon by a gang of youths.

▪ turn on to suddenly change your behaviour and attack the person you are with, when they do not expect this:

The dog suddenly turned on him, sinking its teeth into his arm.

■ to attack a place

▪ attack to use weapons to try to damage or take control of a place:

The village was attacked by enemy warplanes.


We will attack at dawn.

▪ invade to enter a country and try to get control of it using force:

The Romans invaded Britain 2,000 years ago.

▪ storm to suddenly attack a city or building that is well defended by getting inside it and taking control:

Elite troops stormed the building and rescued the hostages.

▪ besiege /bɪˈsiːdʒ/ to surround a city or building with soldiers in order to stop the people inside from getting out or from receiving supplies:

In April 655, Osman’s palace was besieged by rebels.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.