When you want to assess who has access to something, your spelling matters, doesn’t it?
Oh, there are so many directions I could take this conversation, but I’m going to keep it incredibly simple.
- “Access” means the permission or liberty to approach something or someone.
- “Assess” means to determine the rate or value of something.
Yes, there are more subtleties to these words, but for our purposes, these definitions will do.
Interestingly, the word “access” stems from the Old French word acces, which in the 14th century meant an attack or onslaught, most commonly referring to the coming of an illness. This was related to the Latin form accessus, meaning an approach or an entrance. It wasn’t until the 16th century that “access” became the English word defined how we understand it today.
“Assess,” on the other hand, was strictly related to taxes from its origin in Medieval Latin, assessare, meaning to fix a tax upon, up until the 20th century. This meaning still holds, of course, but it also gained its new meaning of judging a person, value, or idea starting in roughly the 1930s.
Tax money, illnesses, and onslaughts—oh what a jolly little pair these two are. But whether you’re one who is making assessments or being assessed, whether you’re giving access or receiving it (or not), knowing the difference matters. That much, I think we can all agree on.
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