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

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
Recent Examples on the Web Critical decisions require a devil’s advocate approach in discernment to protect against bias. Debra Rinell, Forbes, 28 Mar. 2022 In a divided world, posting commentary on the Internet calls for a heightened sense of discernment. San Diego Union-Tribune, 9 Apr. 2022 Dee Haslam noted how much thought and discernment went into the decision. cleveland, 25 Mar. 2022 Stan recalls the beginnings of his discernment of a gap between his family, his milieu, and the world at large. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 31 Mar. 2022 Money, art and careers depend on the discernment, if not the kindness, of strangers. Michael Saler, WSJ, 15 Mar. 2022 Dating involves exploration, discernment, communicating, coping with disappointment, and fun. Amy Dickinson, BostonGlobe.com, 30 Dec. 2021 Dating involves exploration, discernment, communicating, coping with disappointment, and – fun. Amy Dickinson, oregonlive, 30 Dec. 2021 Dating involves exploration, discernment, communicating, coping with disappointment, and – fun. Amy Dickinson, Detroit Free Press, 30 Dec. 2021 See More

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.

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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Time Traveler for discernment

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The first known use of discernment was in 1570

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Last Updated

12 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Discernment.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discernment. Accessed 24 May. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on discernment

Nglish: Translation of discernment for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of discernment for Arabic Speakers


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