dis·​cre·​tion·​ary | \ di-ˈskre-shə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce discretionary (audio) \

Definition of discretionary

1 : left to individual choice or judgment : exercised at one's own discretion discretionary powers
2 : available for discretionary use discretionary income

Examples of discretionary in a Sentence

discretionary spending on luxuries dropped dramatically last year
Recent Examples on the Web Walmart and Target, a bellwether of the broader American consumer, are both indicating that sales of discretionary items has been slowing. David W. Mccombie Iii, Forbes, 16 June 2022 There was still an increase in spending on discretionary items like sporting goods, hobbies, musical instruments, and books. Nate Dicamillo, Quartz, 15 June 2022 America’s rampant inflation is imposing severe pressures on families, forcing them to pay much more for food, gas and rent and reducing their ability to afford discretionary items, from haircuts to electronics. Christopher Rugaber, Anchorage Daily News, 10 June 2022 Retailers have been warning that inflation is crimping sales as consumers shift to either spending on services or focusing on necessities rather than purchasing otherwise discretionary items, like electronics. Damian J. Troise, ajc, 8 June 2022 Retailers have been warning that rising prices are crimping sales, as consumers shift to either spending on services or focusing on necessities rather than purchasing otherwise discretionary items, like electronics. CBS News, 8 June 2022 Companies say lower-income shoppers are slowing their spending on discretionary items, buying cheaper private-label brands and adding fewer items to their shopping carts. Nathaniel Meyersohn, CNN, 26 May 2022 Big-box retailers such as Walmart and Target are seeing consumers give priority to groceries and household essentials over discretionary items. Justin Lahart, WSJ, 24 May 2022 Escalating inflation over the past year has also squeezed household budgets, leading more consumers to rein in their spending on discretionary items. Michael Liedtke, chicagotribune.com, 20 Apr. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'discretionary.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of discretionary

1698, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for discretionary

discretion + -ary entry 2

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Time Traveler for discretionary

Time Traveler

The first known use of discretionary was in 1698

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Dictionary Entries Near discretionary



discretionary account

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Statistics for discretionary

Last Updated

26 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Discretionary.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discretionary. Accessed 3 Jul. 2022.

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More Definitions for discretionary


dis·​cre·​tion·​ary | \ dis-ˈkre-shə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce discretionary (audio) \

Legal Definition of discretionary

: left to discretion : exercised at one's own discretion specifically : relating to the policy-making function of a public official — see also Federal Tort Claims Act — compare ministerial

Note: A public official generally has qualified immunity from lawsuits that arise from his or her discretionary acts.

More from Merriam-Webster on discretionary

Nglish: Translation of discretionary for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of discretionary for Arabic Speakers


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