late 14c., "seek or try to do, make an effort to perform," from Old French atempter (14c.), earlier atenter "to try, attempt, test" (Modern French attenter), from Latin attemptare "to try, make trial of; tamper with, seek to influence; attack, assail" (source also of Italian attentare, Old Provençal, Portuguese attentar, Spanish atentar), from assimilated form of ad "to, toward" (see ad-) + temptare "to try" (see tempt). Related: Attempted; attempting.
1530s, "a putting forth of effort in some difficult or uncertain endeavor," from attempt (v.). Meaning "effort to accomplish something by violence" is from 1580s, especially as an assault on someone's life.