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


common sense, discreetness, gumption [chiefly dialect], horse sense, levelheadedness, nous [chiefly British], policy, prudence, sense, sensibleness, wisdom, wit


imprudence, indiscretion

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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

Rather then being charged criminally, the offenders — at the discretion of the officers — will be offered the chance to go through the LEAD program. Erika Butler, baltimoresun.com, "Bel Air Police’s diversion program will let some low-level drug offenders avoid jail, get treatment instead," 6 Sep. 2019 The ordinance allows for flexibility at the discretion of the building commissioner for those with open building permits or for extenuating circumstances that any resident may face. John Benson, cleveland.com, "North Olmsted City Council passes temporary home dumpster use legislation," 5 Sep. 2019 The executive director’s employment is at the discretion of the City Council, but council members can only take votes in public meetings. Andrew Kenney, The Denver Post, "Questions swirl as Denver City Council moves to fire executive director," 5 Sep. 2019 As well as the bond proceeds, the institution holds a smaller pot of money, which can be disbursed at the discretion of experts. The Economist, "The World Bank’s pandemic bonds are not paying out for Ebola," 29 Aug. 2019 Conservatives argued for that discretion in a 2016 case that reached the Supreme Court, but its constitutionality has yet to be decided. Michael Wines, New York Times, "Trump Considering an Executive Order to Allow Citizenship Question on Census," 5 July 2019 To the game’s credit, these choices more often than not amount to subtle nods toward your preference for discretion (or lack thereof). Daniel Starkey, Ars Technica, "Assassin’s Creed Odyssey," 4 Oct. 2018 Monday, Marcus Smith jumped offsides at one point with Wagner then giving him a strong tongue lashing, a punishment that only increased when Smith then had to run a lap, the standard punishment for such a discretion. Mike Vorel, The Seattle Times, "Analysis: Impressions from day four of Seahawks training camp," 30 July 2018 Walker doesn’t think her findings are necessarily surprising, especially since Ashley Madison is a place where people come with a specific need to fulfill and a shared concern for discretion. Rebecca Gale, Marie Claire, "New Study Finds Women Are Happier In Affairs Than Men," 30 July 2018

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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Statistics for discretion

Last Updated

13 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for discretion

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

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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

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Comments on discretion

What made you want to look up discretion? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


authorized for issue (as a bond)

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