Will You Assent to the Ascent?

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Assent and ascent are two more words with the same sound but different meanings. When you agree with an idea, you assent to it. When you climb a mountain, you ascend it. When you assent to an ascent, that means you’re willing to go mountain climbing.

Assenting to something means giving your approval, at least reluctantly. Sometimes people give a mere mental assent to an idea, without having any deep feelings about it. That’s why assent has a fairly mild connotation, similar to acquiesce, unlike similar, stronger words such as affirm or avow.

An ascent is an upward motion, or the path you take to move upwards. It can also be used technically to describe the steepness or grade of a road: “this road has an ascent of 5 degrees.” Assentdoesn’t always mean a physical climb – the path to sainthood can be as difficult an ascent as the path up Mt. Everest.

As you think about assent and ascent, if you have trouble remembering which is which, you can think about their antonyms. (If you have trouble remembering what an antonym is, it’s a word that means the opposite of another word – a sort of “anti-word.”). The opposite of ascent (to go up) is descent (to go down). The opposite of assent (to approve) is dissent (to disapprove).

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