I've been having quite a few D/s discussions lately which has been nice, but I have to say that many people have very different definitions of Dominant and submissive and what those words entail.
I really don't wish to hash out every point of view here, but I would like to make a handful of statements that display my beliefs. Feel free to disagree with me via comments :)
Dominant behavior or a dominant personality is not the same as being a Dominant. That is, the existence of the adjective does not make the noun. There are plenty of submissives that carry a dominant personality in vanilla life or act with many dominant behaviors. There are plenty of vanilla people that have dominant personalities and behaviors that do not associate with being a Dominant.
Submissive behavior or a submissive personality is not the same as being a submissive. In my experiences I've never met someone with a submissive personality or that regularly engaged in submissive behaviors (beyond work and manners) that was secretly a Dominant. That being said, not all people that exhibit submissive behaviors or personalities are submissives.
What separates the noun from the adjectives? In its simplest form, spaces: Domspace and subspace.
To speed things along I will use completely simplified definitions.
Domspace: a desirable mindset and feeling set linked
with sexual response and obtained through dominance, dominant acts, or
in response to submissive acts.
Subspace: a desirable mindset and feeling set linked
with sexual response and obtained through submission, submissive acts,
or in response to dominant acts.
With these in mind, I believe that a Dominant is someone that acts to feed their Domspace. Similarly, I believe that a submissive is someone that acts to feed their subspace.
Why does it have to be sexual? Because if it wasn't, there would be no reason to be a Dominant or a submissive... we would simply all be people that exerted those traits... just like all the people that do it without involving kink in their lives.
Note: I don't expect anyone to really learn anything from this, I'm merely gathering my thoughts so that it is easier to articulate them the next time I am forced trying to explain the differences.