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

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Examples of discretionary in a Sentence

discretionary spending on luxuries dropped dramatically last year

Recent Examples on the Web

Friday’s report showed the rise in May spending across the economy was fairly broad-based, with gains posted in discretionary categories. Sarah Chaney, WSJ, "U.S. Retail Sales Increased in May," 14 June 2019 The latest gender pay gap report published by the British lender this week showed the shortfall between the discretionary payouts to female staff at HSBC Bank Plc narrowing from around 85 percent in 2018. BostonGlobe.com, "Ironwood moving headquarters from Cambridge to downtown Boston," 14 June 2019 When stores are changed into restaurants or other new uses, neighbors within 150 feet of the property must be notified, and anyone can file for a discretionary review, which requires a hearing at the Planning Commission, adding months of delays. Shwanika Narayan, San Francisco Chronicle, "The historic San Francisco neighborhood is suddenly littered with empty storefronts. What’s the reason?," 13 June 2019 The club will spend its full allotment of mandatory and discretionary TAM equaling approximately $4 million over the course of the 2019 season. Si.com Staff, SI.com, "Numbers Behind 2019 MLS Ambition Rankings: Western Conference Clubs," 10 June 2019 Meanwhile, consumers have significantly slowed their discretionary spends. Nupur Anand, Quartz India, "Here’s proof that Indians are losing confidence in their economy," 7 June 2019 That puts all the revenue up for possible discretionary use in the CIF. David Roberts, Vox, "Oregon is poised to set a cap on greenhouse gas emissions. That’s a huge deal.," 5 June 2019 What millennials are spending more on are non-discretionary expenses, such as health care, housing, and education. Marc Bain, Quartz, "US consumer spending hasn’t changed much in 30 years, with one exception," 30 May 2019 These generally cap student-loan repayments at 10% to 15% of a borrower’s annual discretionary income—an amount that is determined by a formula that includes the borrower’s income and family size, among other factors. Anne Tergesen, WSJ, "How Millennials Can Maximize Savings for Retirement," 28 Nov. 2018

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.

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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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Statistics for discretionary

Last Updated

22 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for discretionary

The first known use of discretionary was in 1698

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English Language Learners Definition of discretionary

: available to be used when and how you decide
: done or used when necessary


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.

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Comments on discretionary

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


to take the place or position of

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