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noun dis·cern·ment \di-ˈsərn-mənt, -ˈzərn-\

: the ability to see and understand people, things, or stituations clearly and intelligently

Full Definition of DISCERNMENT

:  the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure :  skill in discerning
:  an act of perceiving or discerning something


  1. His lack of discernment led to his disastrous choice of business partners.
  2. <the discernment to know when someone is a true friend>
  3. I wasn't sanguine about my powers of discernment, as I've failed similar exercises in the Central Park Ramble, where I practice bird-watching for dummies and am scarcely able to distinguish a rook from a duck. —Judith Thurman, New Yorker, 1 Dec., 2003

First Known Use of DISCERNMENT


Synonym Discussion of DISCERNMENT

discernment, discrimination, perception, penetration, insight, acumen mean a power to see what is not evident to the average mind. discernment stresses accuracy (as in reading character or motives or appreciating art) <the discernment to know true friends>. discrimination stresses the power to distinguish and select what is true or appropriate or excellent <the discrimination that develops through listening to a lot of great music>. perception implies quick and often sympathetic discernment (as of shades of feeling) <a novelist of keen perception into human motives>. penetration implies a searching mind that goes beyond what is obvious or superficial <lacks the penetration to see the scorn beneath their friendly smiles>. insight suggests depth of discernment coupled with understanding sympathy <a documentary providing insight into the plight of the homeless>. acumen implies characteristic penetration combined with keen practical judgment <a director of reliable box-office acumen>.



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