dis·​cern·​ment | \di-ˈsərn-mənt, -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

Media: Hollyscoop Employers are looking for candidates with good discernment relating to soft skills and the potential for future growth. Kimberly Thompson, Houston Chronicle, "Career Rescue: Soft skills help energy-job interview," 8 July 2018 After a lengthy period of discernment, members can choose to remain in the community permanently. Adam O’neal, WSJ, "Inside Amy Coney Barrett’s ‘Cult’," 5 July 2018 This week the archdiocese will send out a letter to the pastors of our parishes, inviting them to implement a process of discernment and immediate action in their communities. San Antonio Express-News, "Archbishop calls for action on immigration reform," 1 July 2018 The change that concerns me, however, is this growing tendency to paint motherhood, all of it without disclaimer or discernment, as one of those awful experiences that must be trashed publicly for a greater glory. Ana Veciana-suarez, miamiherald, "While a mother's role evolves with time, certain parenting aspects remain constant | Miami Herald," 7 May 2018 Could these Turks—intimately acquainted with American society and politics, yet possessed of the clear-eyed discernment of the outsider—tell me what the election of Donald Trump says about who Americans really are? Suzy Hansen, The New Republic, "“What Difference Is Trump for Us?”," 24 Apr. 2018 Strike a balance between discernment and sharing the need-to-know facts. Colin Bedell, Cosmopolitan, "Your Horoscope for the Week of March 12," 11 Mar. 2018 Peter followed his own discernment process and was accepted in 2014. Clara Hatcher, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Father, son follow different paths, same calling to become Catholic priests," 30 Mar. 2018 Strike a balance between discernment and sharing the need-to-know facts. Colin Bedell, Cosmopolitan, "Your Horoscope for the Week of March 12," 11 Mar. 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

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The first known use of discernment was in 1586

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to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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