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 Our values are human connection, modesty in terms of discretion, love of entertaining, philanthropy, and nature. Sam Dangremond, Town & Country, 2 Sep. 2021 The complex and unpredictable nature of calls asking emergency responders to enter a home without the consent of the residents requires discretion, fire and police experts said. NBC News, 19 Aug. 2021 Private employers have the most discretion, from a legal perspective. Harry Enten, CNN, 12 Aug. 2021 Unlike physical exams, conversations are easy to conduct virtually, and some people might enjoy the discretion, ease, or efficiency of talking to a therapist from the comfort of their own home. Oliver Kharraz, Fortune, 6 July 2021 Its executives performed their work with a patrician discretion. Rachel Monroe, The New Yorker, 31 May 2021 With that discretion, Philadelphia leaders have decided to shut down indoor dining entirely, beginning Friday. Alex Putterman, courant.com, 17 Nov. 2020 Congress should build on the initial success of the waivers by converting Obamacare’s subsidies into grants to the states with wide discretion to reform their individual insurance markets. Marie Fishpaw, National Review, 18 Oct. 2020 What's certain is that her parents will proceed with their usual discretion, as is their prerogative. Iris Goldsztajn, Marie Claire, 18 Aug. 2021

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

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

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Last Updated

17 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Discretion.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discretion. Accessed 25 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for discretion



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

More from Merriam-Webster on discretion

Nglish: Translation of discretion for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of discretion for Arabic Speakers


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