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From Biology-Online Dictionary | Biology-Online Dictionary
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1. To attack with violence, or in a vehement and hostile manner; to assault; to molest; as, to assail a man with blows; to assail a city with artillery. No rude noise mine ears assailing. (Cowper) No storm can now assail The charm he wears within. (Keble)

2. To encounter or meet purposely with the view of mastering, as an obstacle, difficulty, or the like. The thorny wilds the woodmen fierce assail. (Pope)

3. To attack morally, or with a view to produce changes in the feelings, character, conduct, existing usages, institutions; to attack by words, hostile influence, etc.; as, to assail one with appeals, arguments, abuse, ridicule, and the like. The papal authority . . . Assailed. (Hallam) They assailed him with keen invective; they assailed him with still keener irony. (Macaulay)

Synonym: to attack, assault, invade, encounter, fall upon. See attack.

Origin: oe. Assailen, asailen, OF. Asaillir, assailler, f. Assaillir; (L. Ad) _ saillir to burst out, project, fr. L. Salire to leap, spring; cf. L. Assilire to leap or spring upon. See sally.