Definition of discern
1a : to detect with the eyes discerned a figure approaching through the fogb : to detect with senses other than vision discerned a strange odor
3 : to come to know or recognize mentally unable to discern his motives
: to see or understand the difference
discernibleor less commonly
discernableplay \-ˈsər-nə-bəl, -ˈzər-\ adjective
discerniblyplay \-blē\ adverb
Examples of discern in a Sentence
A careful analysis of the “Nutrition Facts” panels might provide some guidance, but you would have to do a lot of math before you could discern the best choice. —David L. Katz, O, The Oprah Magazine, August 2008
The ability to discern value at a glimpse, to sift the useful out of the rejected with as little expenditure of energy as possible, is the great talent of the scavenger. —Matthew Power, Harper's, December 2006
Astronomers are delighted to have found 19 galaxies that appear to be bent out of shape. The distorted images are cosmic mirages, arcs or rings of light created when the gravity of a massive foreground object bends and magnifies the light from a galaxy lying behind it. Albert Einstein predicted the effect … in 1936, but telescopes at the time weren't powerful enough to discern it. —R. Cowen, Science News, 21 Jan. 2006
Despite the layers of ironic hesitation, the reader soon discerns that the emotions informing the book are raw and, more importantly, authentic. —Publishers Weekly, 13 Dec. 1999
The reasons behind this sudden change are difficult to discern.
barely able to discern the garden gate through the mist
Recent Examples of discern from the Web
But close observers of Trump’s thinking have discerned some method to his apparent madness:
Discerning between a run and a pass play before the snap may come down to subtle clues, such as offensive linemen’s fingers.
Discerning fans should listen to everything, but the money most of all.
There was no detective work needed to discern a population boom.
Even toes can be discerned in a few of the sauropod prints.
A public official reading Marston's opinion has no way to discern what is permissible.
Some items are harder to discern than others, but the overall effect is of black people as satellites floating through the cosmos, transmitting information about the past, present, and future of black culture simultaneously.
My girlfriend Alice and I tried to discern some meaning in their position and placement, but there was too much else to see while strolling this energized, winding walkway, which gives great vantage above the ocean curls below.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'discern'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
DISCERN Defined for Kids
Definition of discern for Students
: to see, recognize, or understand something
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up discern? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).