Based on all of the definitions I can find:

I understand aggressing is always offensive, whereas asserting can be offensive and defensive. I understand aggressing attempts to take or overtake something, while asserting only offers something. I understand aggressing can be physical or communicative, while asserting is only communicative.

Do you concur? Do you recognize a significant distinction I've missed? It seems to me that someone can be physically assertive, someone can aggressively defend themselves, and aggression can be done the beginning, middle and end, unlike all of the definitions that claim it only happens at the beginning. it's pretty muddy for me...hoping you can make it much clearer.

  • 9
    Aggressing is an unusual word, and is almost always used in the adjective or adverb form, not the verb. Otherwise I agree with your analysis. Aggressive has the threat of implied violence, while assertions are more definitive and precise statements.
    – mankowitz
    Dec 30, 2020 at 1:22
  • Assert is a verb of speech, meaning make a statement. Agress is rarely a verb; the root appears much more often in aggression and aggressive, which both mean attacking.' Feb 19, 2023 at 2:33

2 Answers 2


Asserting is to take a stand for oneself and one's position. To aggress (hardly ever used) or take aggression is to move to push someone from their position. As such aggression is regarded as more violent than mere assertion. Violence being generally distasteful is to be regarded as the poor choice. Though assertion can be overdone it is meant to be the persuasive, less overt form of aggression. To each their own.


The biggest difference is that "aggress" as a verb is extremely uncommon (see Ngram Viewer). A better comparison would be "aggressive" vs. "assertive."

MW defines "assertive" as:

disposed to or characterized by bold or confident statements and behavior

It defines "aggressive" (in one sense) as:

marked by obtrusive energy and self-assertiveness

The biggest difference here is that "aggressive" almost always has negative connotations (note the use of the word "obtrusive"). The word "assertive" only sometimes has a negative meaning.

As an example, you might say:

  1. You never speak up during meetings. You need to learn to be more assertive.

But you probably wouldn't say:

  1. You never speak up during meetings. You need to learn to be more aggressive.

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