dis·​cre·​tion | \dis-ˈkre-shən \

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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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

Viewer's discretion is advised as some of these videos have language that may not be suitable for work: The Vikings are just one win away from playing in their first Super Bowl since Super Bowl XI in 1976. Chris Chavez, SI.com, "Watch: The Best Vikings Fan Reactions To Stefon Diggs's Walk-Off Touchdown vs. Saints," 15 Jan. 2018 Only Sponsor may elect, at its discretion, to substitute a prize of greater or equal value. RedEye Chicago, "Riot Fest Stage Naming Contest Official Rules 2017," 2 Aug. 2017 When a decision to suspend a student is left up to an administrator’s discretion, Black students are far more likely to be punished than their white peers. Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, "TEACHING FOR BLACK LIVES," 10 July 2018 Which cryptocurrency firms will get to advertise on the platform will be up to Facebook’s discretion. Gabriel T. Rubin, WSJ, "Facebook to Accept Cryptocurrency Ads Again," 26 June 2018 The recovery and identification of remains from these underwater sites are conducted at the Pentagon’s discretion. Mike Ives, BostonGlobe.com, "A World War II mystery is solved, and emotions flood in," 28 May 2018 The recovery and identification of remains from these underwater sites are conducted at the Pentagon’s discretion. Mike Ives, New York Times, "A World War II Mystery Is Solved, and Emotions Flood In," 28 May 2018 Parental discretion is advised — especially if the kiddos like Cheetos. Lisa Gutierrez, kansascity, "Crunch time: People are paying Stormy Daniels to stomp on Cheetos | The Kansas City Star," 8 May 2018 But the final selection is also a product of the stylist’s discretion, shaped by feedback that the company solicits from users every time a box is shipped. Katy Steinmetz / San Francisco, Time, "Stitch Fix Has One of Silicon Valley’s Few Female CEOs. But The Company Stands Out For More Than That," 3 May 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

see discreet

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Last Updated

25 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

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 \

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 \

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).


obstinately defiant of authority

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