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

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

While discerning travelers pan for kernels of authenticity, Telluride sits on the motherlode. Alex Bhattacharji, Condé Nast Traveler, "Why Telluride Keeps Being Named the Best U.S. Ski Town," 5 Dec. 2018 The good news is that with two weeks of Timmy content piling up, the following will be pretty discerning! Cady Drell, Marie Claire, "The Last Two Weeks in Timothée Chalamet, November 30 Edition," 30 Nov. 2018 The Armed Forces are all about efficiency, particularly in wartime, and the ability to quickly discern a lot of information from a simple glance is useful, particularly in high-stress situations. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "The U.S. Military’s Cryptic Letters, Numbers, and Symbols, Explained," 6 Dec. 2018 Some studies have examined the cephalopod’s ability to discern objects of different sizes, shapes, colors, brightnesses and textures; and its problem-solving, including the ability to navigate mazes and open jars. C. Claiborne Ray, New York Times, "The Octopus: Stable Genius," 2 Feb. 2018 However, developers are realizing that comic fans are often a discerning audience that will voice its outrage at weak adaptations of favorite characters, so lower-quality titles are thankfully fewer and farther-between as time goes on. Michael Thompson, Ars Technica, "Drawn together: The love affair between comics and games," 24 Dec. 2018 With the holidays comes the annual race to find the perfect gift for every person in your life, from your cool coworker to your finicky college roommate and your discerning brother-in-law. Asad Syrkett, Curbed, "21 holiday gifts for people who like nice things," 15 Nov. 2018 Since its premiere in 2014, HBO’s True Detective has been a source of contention, which has as much to do with untangling the mystery at the center of each season as trying to discern whether the show is good or not. Karen Han, Vox, "True Detective season 3 premieres January 13. Here’s everything we know so far.," 12 Oct. 2018 Dermot Shea, the New York Police Department chief of detectives, said at a news conference on Tuesday the police were still trying to discern a motive for the killing. New York Times, "Intruder Charged in Killing of New School Professor in Brooklyn Home," 8 May 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

12 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

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

Comments on discern

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