dis·​cern·​ment | \ di-ˈsərn-mənt How to pronounce discernment (audio) , -ˈzərn- \

Definition of discernment

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

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Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Examples of discernment in a Sentence

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 Varying widely in scope and theme, the 10 essays about the Bill of Rights in this collection often shine with insight and sparkling turns of phrase; some, however, betray lack of discernment. — Jonathan Kellerman et al., Publishers Weekly, 17 Apr. 2000 If one searched the archives to find an example of Spanish colonial policy at its worst, one would surely select Don Carlos Benites Franquis de Lugo, a vain, arrogant, opinionated fop who never displayed a shred of either courage or discernment but who did distinguish himself as one of the most inept and vengeful Spaniards ever to function overseas. — James A. Michener, Texas, 1985 His lack of discernment led to his disastrous choice of business partners. the discernment to know when someone is a true friend
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Recent Examples on the Web But use discernment when drawing conclusions and gather more information first. Tarot Astrologers, chicagotribune.com, "Daily horoscope for December 24, 2020," 24 Dec. 2020 Eventually, that discernment worked in Conan’s favor, O’Brien explained. Shirley Li, The Atlantic, "What Will Late-Night TV Do After Trump?," 17 Dec. 2020 But this story was pushed by former Trump adviser Steve Bannon and Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, so many news outlets covered it with skepticism and discernment. Alexis Benveniste, CNN, "Stelter: Fox destroys its credibility when it leads with Hunter Biden news," 13 Dec. 2020 The toppings, selected with discernment, are applied with a spare touch. Rick Nelson, Star Tribune, "Pizza takeover! 12 new (or newish) pies and slices to try in the Twin Cities," 13 Nov. 2020 An essential aspect of education is the discernment of actions and consequences. Frederick M. Hess, National Review, "Northwestern President Offers Tutorial on Campus Leadership," 28 Oct. 2020 The prevailing view at the time was that invertebrate immune systems were incapable of such discernment. Quanta Magazine, "‘Trained Immunity’ Offers Hope in Fight Against Coronavirus," 14 Sep. 2020 For the last six months, the archdiocese — along with churches nationwide — lifted the obligation because of the threat posed by COVID-19, an unprecedented decision and one that Listecki indicated was made after deep, prayerful discernment. Sophie Carson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Milwaukee archbishop urges Catholics to return to pews, saying it's a 'grave sin' to deliberately fail to attend Mass," 13 Sep. 2020 Her personal style is one that is driven by the same discernment that drives her creative direction. Leah Johnson, refinery29.com, "Quinn Whitney Wilson is Giving Black Women The Big, Beautiful Art They Deserve," 21 Aug. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'discernment.' 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 discernment

1570, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for discernment

discern + -ment, perhaps after Middle French discernement

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Learn More about discernment

Time Traveler for discernment

Time Traveler

The first known use of discernment was in 1570

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Statistics for discernment

Last Updated

12 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Discernment.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discernment. Accessed 25 Jan. 2021.

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