The antimicrobial properties of olive leaf extract (OLE) have been well recognized in the Mediterranean traditional medicine. Few studies have investigated the antimicrobial properties of OLE. In this preliminary study, commercial OLE and its major phenolic secondary metabolites were evaluated in vitro for their antimicrobial activities against Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus, both individually and in combination with ampicillin. Besides luteolin 7-O-glucoside, OLE and its major phenolic secondary metabolites were effective against both bacteria, with more activity on S. aureus. In combination with ampicillin, OLE, caffeic acid, verbascoside and oleuropein showed additive effects. Synergistic interaction was observed between ampicillin and hydroxytyrosol. The phenolic composition of OLE and the stability of olive phenols in assay medium were also investigated. While OLE and its phenolic secondary metabolites may not be potent enough as stand-alone antimicrobials, their abilities to boost the activity of co-administered antibiotics constitute an imperative future research area. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.