The origin of this word is from an Old French word meaning to hit someone in the face. The literal meaning didn't come over to English, but I like the emphasis placed on the severity via the analogy.
1. To insult (a person or thing personified) to his face, to treat with avowed or open indignity.
2. To put to the blush; to offend the modesty or self-respect of; to cause to feel ashamed. refl. To feel affronted, to blush (obs.). (Said of the feeling produced rather than of the act or purpose).
3. To face in defiance; confront. Now chiefly fig., as to affront death.
b. To meet in hostile encounter, to attack. Obs.
4. To meet intentionally or of purpose, to throw oneself in the way of, accost, address. Obs.
5. To front, to face in position; to look toward. arch.
6. fig. To face anticipatively; to prepare to meet; look out for. Obs. rare.
7. causal. To confront one thing with another; to set face to face. Obs. rare.