dis·​cre·​tion | \ di-ˈskre-shən How to pronounce discretion (audio) \

Definition of discretion

1a : 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

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Synonyms & Antonyms for discretion



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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web The Rochester Police Department, located about 75 miles east of Buffalo, is allowing its officers to cover their names on their badges during protests at their own discretion, according to a department spokeswoman Jackie Schuman. Lauren Del Valle, CNN, "Buffalo Police no longer requires officers to wear names on their uniform," 25 Sep. 2020 The figure is based on 75 votes cast by Pelosi who, by tradition, votes at her discretion. Clara Hendrickson, Detroit Free Press, "Slotkin's GOP challenger says she's misleading voters on her record. We fact-checked it.," 22 Sep. 2020 Although every federal judge has the authority to use his or her discretion in arranging trials, upcoming federal trials across the state are expected to be largely similar. Edmund H. Mahony, courant.com, "For the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, jury trials return to Connecticut courts with a new look, beginning Monday," 21 Sep. 2020 Local officials can start counting the votes at their discretion, though most start counting on Election Day, November 3 after polls close at 8 p.m. CBS News, "How do I vote in my state in the 2020 election?," 18 Sep. 2020 The Trump administration has sent funds to states to spend at their discretion on testing and contact-tracing. Sarah Krouse, WSJ, "Biden, Trump Draw Sharp Contrasts on Covid-19 Testing," 16 Sep. 2020 Instead, the letter alludes to examples of publications exercising their editorial discretion, and speakers facing social consequences driven by vigorous counter-speech, while omitting the details. Harper's Magazine, "On Justice and Open Debate," 15 Sep. 2020 For tax reasons, companies must know where employees reside, but any decisions to cut pay is at their discretion. Anders Melin, Bloomberg.com, "Stripe Workers Who Relocate Get $20,000 Bonus and a Pay Cut," 15 Sep. 2020 Players are free to opt out at their discretion over medical concerns, or to prepare for the NFL as Sewell did. Lorenzo Reyes, USA TODAY, "Oregon OT Penei Sewell, expected to be one of top picks in 2021 NFL draft, opts out of season," 8 Sep. 2020

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for discretion

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

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Time Traveler for discretion

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for discretion

Last Updated

28 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Discretion.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discretion. Accessed 29 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for discretion


How to pronounce discretion (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of discretion

: the right to choose what should be done in a particular situation
: the quality of being careful about what you do and say so that people will not be embarrassed or offended : the quality of being discreet


dis·​cre·​tion | \ di-ˈskre-shən How to pronounce discretion (audio) \

Kids Definition of discretion

1 : care in not attracting attention or letting out private information Use discretion in dealing with the situation.
2 : the power to decide what to do I'll leave it to your discretion.


dis·​cre·​tion | \ dis-ˈkre-shən How to pronounce discretion (audio) \

Legal Definition of discretion

: 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 discretion— L. 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

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