Word Confusion: Allege versus Assert

Posted February 8, 2018 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

“Hey, he hit me…”
“Yeah? Well prove it.”

It comes down to confidence. To allege is to claim something and have no proof to back it up. To assert something, remember one of assert‘s derivatives: assertive. Yep. An assertive person is quite confident of what s/he asserts.

So there.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Allege Assert
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: allege, assert

A black-and-white photo from 1897 showing a party of tourists at Blarney Castle with one of them kissing the Blarney Stone

“Kissing the Blarney Stone”, 1897, is courtesy of the National Library of Ireland on The Commons and was uploaded by oaktree_b and has no no restrictions, as it is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Blarney Stone is alleged to give one the gift of gab.

An orange and white dog tries to intimidate the horses

“Skinna Tries to Assert Herself “by cogdogblog (https://www.flickr.com/photos/cogdog/3004577571/) is under the CC0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

Part of Grammar:
Verb, reporting 1 or transitive 2

Third person present verb: alleges
Past tense or past participle: alleged
Gerund or present participle: alleging

Verb, reporting or transitive

Third person present verb: asserts
Past tense or past participle: asserted
Gerund or present participle: asserting

State without offering proof

Verb, reporting:
Claim or assert that someone has done something illegal or wrong, typically without proof that this is the case

  • [Usually be alleged] Suppose or affirm to be the case

Verb, transitive:
Claim or assert that someone has done something illegal or wrong, typically without proof that this is the case

To declare with positiveness

  • Affirm
  • Assert

To claim a fact

To declare before a court or elsewhere, as if under oath

  • State without or before proof

To plead in support of

  • Offer as a reason or excuse

[Archaic] To cite or quote in confirmation

State confidently

Verb, reporting:
State a fact or belief confidently and forcefully

  • [Assert oneself] Behave or speak in a confident and forceful manner

Verb, transitive:
State a fact or belief confidently and forcefully

  • Cause others to recognize (one’s authority or a right) by confident and forceful behavior
  • Atate strongly or positively
  • Affirm
  • Aver

To maintain or defend (claims, rights, etc.)

To state as having existence

  • Affirm
  • Postulate

To assert a first cause as necessary

Verb, reporting:
He alleged that he had been assaulted.

He is alleged to have assaulted five men.

The first artifact ever alleged to be from Earhart’s aircraft.

“Army officials also allege that he worked for ethnic rebels as a ‘communications captain’.” – Joshua Carroll , “Hope and Change? Burma Kills a Journalist Before Obama Arrives “, The Daily Beast, 11 November 2014

“Tihen did allege that Davis had punched White in the nose at the start of the struggle.” – Michael Daly, “From Ferguson Cop Embroiled in a Brutality Suit to City Councilwoman“, The Daily Beast, 20 August 2014

Verb, transitive:
The offenses are alleged to have been committed outside the woman’s home.

Hank Parton alleged malpractice by Dr. Snootful.

Ted will allege that our next-door neighbor’s son set the dog on fire.

Meanwhile our neighbor alleges that it wasn’t his kid.

“They also allege their children are not in fact siblings, despite having been told they were.” – Tina Traster, “Judge: Rehoming Kids Is Trafficking“, The Daily Beast, 30 December 2014

School districts are alleging the state has not continued to finance schools adequately.

She is alleged to have assaulted the other women in her bridge club.

Verb, reporting:
The company asserts that the cuts will not affect development.

“I don’t know why she came,” he asserted.

It was time to assert himself.

Verb, transitive:
The good librarian is able to assert authority when required.

He asserted his innocence of the crime.

The young man asserted his right for a search warrant before the police could search his car.

The Catholic Church asserts that God is everywhere.

Creationists assert that “in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).

Adjective: allegeable
Adverb: allegedly
Noun: allegation, alleger
Verb, transitive: misallege, misalleged, misalleging, preallege, prealleged, prealleging, reallege, realleged, realleging
Adjective: assertible, assertive
Adverb: assertively
Noun: asserter, assertion, assertiveness, assertor
Verb, transitive: misassert, overassert, preassert
History of the Word:
1 Middle English in the sense of declare on oath is from the Old French esligier, based on the Latin lis, lit- meaning lawsuit. This Latin meaning is sometimes confused in the sense of the Latin allegare meaning allege.

2 1275-1325 (Middle English) alleg(g)en, which is probably from the Old French aleguer, which is from the Medieval Latin allēgāre meaning to adduce in support of a plea, combined with the Anglo-French and Old French aleg(i)er meaning to justify, free, literally, to lighten, which is from the Late Latin alleviāre.

Early 17th century from the Latin asserere meaning claim, affirm, which is from ad- (to) + serere (to join).

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

President Trump by Gage Skidmore is under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license and James Comey June 2016 Conference Orlando Shooting is courtesy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and is in the public domain; both are via Wikimedia Commons.

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