also counter-attack, "attack made in response to an enemy's attack," by 1850; as two words from 1817, from counter- + attack (n.). The verb is recorded from 1867. Related: Counter-attacked; counter-attacking.
word-forming element used in English from c. 1300 and meaning "against, in opposition; in return; corresponding," from Anglo-French countre-, French contre-, from Latin contra "opposite, contrary to, against, in return," also used as a prefix (see contra (prep., adv.)). A doublet of contra-. In some cases it probably represents a purely English use of counter (adv.).