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 February is a much better time to focus on business affairs and moneymaking activities while your discernment and common sense is at a peak. Tribune Content Agency, oregonlive, "Horoscope for Oct. 1, 2019: Virgo, old photos stir up happy memories; Capricorn, don’t throw money at problems," 1 Oct. 2019 Items that aren’t used to feed animals or the compost pile go even further down the chain—to that crossroads of lowest possible consumer discernment. Henry Alford, The New Yorker, "For “Ugly” Produce, Beauty Is Rind Deep," 29 July 2019 But with discernment and integrity, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author shares a compelling story that never crosses over into gratuitous detail. Joan Gaylord, The Christian Science Monitor, "‘The Nickel Boys’ reckons with a legacy of racism and abuse," 16 July 2019 Yet among the stats and accomplishments, the greatest thing Long amassed along the way was discernment. Arizona Republic, azcentral, "Viewpoint: Sports, and our communities at large, need more Chris Longs — people who "get it"," 26 June 2019 Every new impression provides one additional component leading toward confident judgment and discernment — in a word, experience, which, more than classes or books, is the essential element in attaining a comfortable relationship with wine. Eric Asimov, New York Times, "From Campania’s Volcanic Soils, Whites in Multiple Colors," 31 May 2018 As Salvador Rizzo concluded in his fact-check column for the Washington Post: The best-case scenario is that Kavanaugh, who is up for a seat on the nation’s highest court, has a glaring lack of curiosity or a superficial level of discernment. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "Brett Kavanaugh’s habit of dissembling makes it hard to take his word over Ford’s," 24 Sep. 2018 But the overall aesthetic is elegant and grown up, with less broad-church appeal and more presumed discernment on the part of the visitors. Jo Rodgers, Condé Nast Traveler, "Inside the U.K.'s Most Anticipated Hotel Opening This Summer," 31 Aug. 2018 Although Pisces, the sign opposite to you in the zodiac, can be silly and lack your discernment, their focus on the bigger picture gently encourages you to let go of stress that you’re known to hold onto. Ashley Otero, Teen Vogue, "Who You Should Date, Based on Your Horoscope," 20 Aug. 2018

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

1586, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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 1586

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Statistics for discernment

Last Updated

10 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Discernment.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discernment. Accessed 13 December 2019.

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Comments on discernment

What made you want to look up discernment? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


easily led, controlled, or managed

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