"attack violently," c. 1200, from Old French assalir "attack, assault, assail" (12c., Modern French assaillir), from Vulgar Latin *adsalire "to leap at," from Latin ad "to, toward" (see ad-) + salire "to leap" (see salient (adj.)). Figurative use, of mental states, emotions, etc., is from mid-14c.; meaning "attack with arguments, abuse, criticism, etc." is from c. 1400. Related: Assailed; assailing; assailable.
1570s, "use quips; assail with clever, sarcastic remarks," from quip (n.). The sense of "to say or reply as a quip" is by 1950. Related: Quipped; quipping.
1560s, "triumph over in an arrogant way" (obsolete), from French insulter "to wrong; reproach; triumph arrogantly over," earlier "to leap upon" (14c.) and directly from Latin insultare "to assail, to make a sudden leap upon," which was used by the time of Cicero in sense of "to insult, scoff at, revile," frequentative of insilire "leap at or upon," from in- "on, at" (from PIE root *en "in") + salire "to leap" (see salient (adj.)).
Sense of "verbally abuse, affront, assail with disrespect, offer an indignity to" is from 1610s. Related: Insulted; insulting.