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 Close up, the markings on the hillside were hard to discern, and even harder to make sense of. Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker, 12 May 2021 Radar also helps to discern asteroids' shape, composition and trajectory. Sarah Scoles, Scientific American, 19 May 2021 In our era of internet idiocies vigilance is paramount, but there still exists a plain route to whatever truth we humans can discern. Peter M. Leschak, Star Tribune, 15 May 2021 Since early on in the pandemic, scientists have been attempting to discern the various effects of the pandemic on wildlife across the world. BostonGlobe.com, 10 May 2021 Most used shades of amber and orange, which can be challenging for people with color vision deficiencies to discern between. Amanda Shendruk, Quartz, 23 Apr. 2021 Perhaps that should give pause to those on the religious left inclined to dismiss Biden’s calls for healing—or at least prompt them to discern the deeper truth such calls point toward. Matthew Sitman, The New Republic, 15 Apr. 2021 Any periods of downward motion put a damper on cloud cover production, allowing one to discern the atmospheric waves radiating outward. Washington Post, 12 Apr. 2021 My big board is an attempt to discern who the best players in this draft class actually are. Eddie Brown, San Diego Union-Tribune, 12 Apr. 2021

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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Time Traveler for discern

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for discern

Last Updated

3 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Discern.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discern. Accessed 15 Jun. 2021.

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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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