discretion

noun

dis·​cre·​tion di-ˈskre-shən How to pronounce discretion (audio)
1
a
: individual choice or judgment
left the decision to his discretion
b
: power of free decision or latitude of choice within certain legal bounds
reached the age of discretion
2
: the quality of having or showing discernment or good judgment : the quality of being discreet : circumspection
especially : cautious reserve in speech
3
: ability to make responsible decisions
4
: the result of separating or distinguishing

Examples of discretion in a Sentence

Though it is worth noting that to live in a place where other people come just for pleasure has the odd effect of making me feel transient, while the visitors seem more fixed and permanent in their lives, coming as they do from more conventional homes far away. It is as if I am always waiting for them and am here at their discretion. Richard Ford, Wall Street Journal, 14-15 June 2008
In Texas "capital" murder doesn't necessarily mean a death-penalty case; it's the designation for any aggravated murder, and prosecutors have full discretion in deciding whether to seek death in such cases. John Cloud, Time, 14 July 2003
Del Monte was a courtier, bureaucrat, diplomat and politician born and bred and he understood the need for discretion. Peter Robb, The Man Who Became Caravaggio, (1998) 1999
Each artist in the gallery has discretion over the price that will be charged for his or her work. The coach used his own discretion to let the injured quarterback play. He always uses care and discretion when dealing with others. She handled the awkward situation with great discretion. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Away from the border, immigration arrests that result in deportations are also down, in part because of a series of directives from Mayorkas that have emphasized discretion. Jonathan Blitzer, The New Yorker, 17 Feb. 2024 All products are shipped in unmarked boxes with no indication of what is inside, meaning discretion is guaranteed at all times, so there is no need to worry about nosey neighbors. Sponsored Content, The Mercury News, 16 Feb. 2024 Distributors often have the discretion to remove music. Ethan Millman, Rolling Stone, 15 Feb. 2024 The court found that the committee failed to properly exercise any discretion. Todd Richmond, Twin Cities, 2 Feb. 2024 The move has made the GOP House leadership's job of steering legislation through the chamber increasingly difficult, enabling a small group of detractors to effectively shut down the floor at their discretion. Kaia Hubbard, CBS News, 31 Jan. 2024 The report did not detail why past cases were dropped, whether for loss of key witnesses, discovery of new evidence, a finding of no competence or a prosecutorial discretion. Emily Davies, Washington Post, 30 Jan. 2024 The number of informants in communities and workplaces varies according to the needs and discretion of local authorities. Minxin Pei, Foreign Affairs, 6 Feb. 2024 The senators propose that the border could be closed at the discretion of the administration (via the Homeland Security secretary) if encounters are 4,000 per day. Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review, 6 Feb. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'discretion.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English discrecioun "rational perception, moral discernment, good judgment," borrowed from Anglo-French & Late Latin; Anglo-French discreciun, descrecion, borrowed from Late Latin discrētiōn-, discrētiō "separation, act or power of distinguishing, caution, prudence," going back to Latin, "division, discrimination," from discrē-, variant stem of discernere "to separate, distinguish" + -tiōn-, -tiō, suffix of verbal action — more at discern

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of discretion was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near discretion

Cite this Entry

“Discretion.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discretion. Accessed 27 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

discretion

noun
dis·​cre·​tion dis-ˈkresh-ən How to pronounce discretion (audio)
1
: the quality of being discreet : prudence
2
a
: individual choice or judgment
left the decision to your discretion
b
: power of free decision
reached the age of discretion
discretionary
-ˈkresh-ə-ˌner-ē
adjective

Legal Definition

discretion

noun
dis·​cre·​tion dis-ˈkre-shən How to pronounce discretion (audio)
: power of free decision or latitude of choice within certain bounds imposed by law
reached the age of discretion
struck down death penalty provisions administered through unbridled jury discretionL. H. Tribe
: as
a
: the power of a judge to use his or her own judgment in making decisions guided by what is fair and equitable and by principles of law see also abuse of discretion
b
: the power of a public official or employee to act and make decisions based on his or her own judgment or conscience within the bounds of reason and the law

More from Merriam-Webster on discretion

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