discern

verb
dis·​cern | \ di-ˈsərn How to pronounce discern (audio) , -ˈzərn How to pronounce discern (audio) \
discerned; discerning; discerns

Definition of discern

transitive verb

1a : to detect with the eyes discerned a figure approaching through the fog
b : to detect with senses other than vision discerned a strange odor
2 : to recognize or identify as separate and distinct : discriminate discern right from wrong
3 : to come to know or recognize mentally unable to discern his motives

intransitive verb

: to see or understand the difference

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Other Words from discern

discerner noun
discernible or less commonly discernable \ di-​ˈsər-​nə-​bəl How to pronounce discernable (audio) , -​ˈzər-​ \ adjective
discernibly \ -​blē How to pronounce discernibly (audio) \ 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
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Recent Examples on the Web

Baggage handlers have to move bags off and on planes quickly, and don't discern between run-of-the-mill luggage and your more expensive pieces when loading and unloading. Katherine Lagrave, Condé Nast Traveler, "Everything You Need to Know About Plastic-Wrapping Your Luggage," 5 Oct. 2018 Our results recovered 12 percent more newly urbanized land area defined by the parameters determined through field survey than would have been discerned using conventional methods. Annette M. Kim, The Atlantic, "Satellite Images Can Harm the Poorest Citizens," 5 June 2018 Networked munitions contain a human-in-the-loop capability so that if a sensor is tripped, the Soldier has the ability to investigate the situation and discern whether the sensor was activated by a combatant, non-combatant, vehicle, or an animal. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "The U.S. Army Is Trying to Design a Civilian-Safe Land Mine," 14 Nov. 2018 Sketches are delivered, petites mains are stitching about, and Lagerfeld is watching over it all with a discerning eye, signing off on each couture creation. Steff Yotka, Vogue, "Watch the Trailer for 7 Days Out, the New Netflix Series That Goes Inside a Chanel Couture Show and Other Landmark Events," 11 Dec. 2018 And the political implications of perhaps the most striking feature of post-millennial life, a complete immersion in digital technology and social media, are not always easy to discern. Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, "The Post-Millennials Should Scare the Hell Out of the GOP," 27 Feb. 2018 But be very discerning about what kind will work best. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "The Pro’s Guide to Managing Sensitive Skin This Winter," 27 Dec. 2018 The goal is to discern patterns, identify bad actors and provide leverage to hold national organizations to account. Douglas Belkin, WSJ, "Colleges Team Up for Report Card on Fraternities to Curb Bad Behavior," 15 June 2018 Critics parsed through his words, studied his actions and tried to discern the difference between confidence and arrogance. Mike Jones, USA TODAY, "Baker Mayfield says sitting this season for Cleveland Browns will be 'great thing for me'," 27 Apr. 2018

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.

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First Known Use of discern

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for discern

Middle English discernen "to discriminate, perceive rationally, see," borrowed from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French discerner, borrowed from Latin discernere "to separate, divide off, distinguish," from dis- dis- + cernere "to sift, discern, decide, determine" — more at certain entry 1

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Statistics for discern

Last Updated

3 Mar 2019

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Time Traveler for discern

The first known use of discern was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for discern

discern

verb
dis·​cern | \ di-ˈsərn How to pronounce discern (audio) , -ˈzərn\
discerned; discerning

Kids Definition of discern

: to see, recognize, or understand something

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More from Merriam-Webster on discern

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with discern

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for discern

Spanish Central: Translation of discern

Nglish: Translation of discern for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of discern for Arabic Speakers

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