Assent vs. Ascent

Homophones: Love them or hate them, they’re everywhere. These two are a great example. They may sound the same, but their meanings couldn’t be any more different. Assent is a word that indicates agreement or approval. Ascent refers to an upward movement.

Assent

As a verb, assent means to agree or to give in. When used as a verb, it’s often followed by the word to. An example of this can be found in Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw: “She appeared to assent to this, but still only in silence.”

Assent can also be used as a noun indicating agreement. Often when it’s used as a noun, it indicates a person agreeing or giving permission without using words. Like when you nod in recognition of something another person says.

Ascent

Ascent is a noun. It describes the action of moving upward. It usually refers to climbing or walking uphill. It’s also used to talk about things that fly upward. By association, it can refer to the slope or other upward path that a person or thing climbs or travels up. It can also refer to the upward route that a bird, plane, or other flying thing takes to get into the air. As such, the word ascent is commonly used in aerospace terminology.

Ascent always relates to the act of going upward. Its opposite (or antonym) is descent, which refers to the act of going downward. These words can be used either literally, to refer to physical movement, or metaphorically, to refer to moral, spiritual, or social advancement.

Spiritually, ascent is often used to indicate that a person is moving closer to the divine or to some other form of goodness or higher being. In Dante’s Paradiso, the first segment (or canto) where the characters start to explore Paradise, is called “The Ascent to the First Heaven.” The word ascent can also be used to talk about someone advancing in a career or leadership role, especially when referring to their gaining power.

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