Ascent vs. Assent vs. Consent

The homonyms “ascent” and “assent” have very different meanings.

Ascent is the noun form of the verb “to ascend,” which means to climb or rise upward. Thus, an ascent is an upward slope or incline, or the act of rising to a higher level.

Examples:
The road grade of the ascent up the hill to the wellsite must be concrete, not gravel.
Nobody was more surprised about his rapid ascent to the executive ranks than he was.

Although it sounds exactly the same as “ascent,” “assent” means agreement or concurrence after thoughtful consideration, and has nothing to do with rising or ascending.

Both of the words “assent” and “consent” involve agreement, but there is a subtle difference between the two such that they cannot be used interchangeably.
While “assent” traditionally denotes concurrence of opinion, “consent” implies a granting of permission or approving a proposed action.

Webster’s Ninth dictionary says:
“Assent implies an act involving the understanding or judgment and applies to propositions or opinions; consent involves the will or feelings and indicates compliance with what is requested or desired.”

In law and government, consent is officially given or denied, whereas assent is often a mere formality.
Think: “level of enthusiasm.” Assent has a higher degree of enthusiasm, whereas consent often comes after some reluctance.

Examples:
He could tell he had the assent of the project partners because they nodded their heads often during the presentation of the field development plan. (enthusiastic agreement)
Employees are not allowed to take vacation days without prior consent from their supervisor. (reluctant permission)

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Thought of the Day:

In the multitude of words there never fails to be transgression,
But the one keeping his lips in check is acting with discretion.

Prov. 10:19

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