dis·​cre·​tion·​ary | \-ˈkre-shə-ˌner-ē \

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

The sanctions are mandated by a U.S. law that requires action over the use of chemical and biological weapons—but President Trump maintains significant discretionary power over the degree of that punishment. Fox News, "Russian stocks, ruble take hit on uncertainty over US sanctions," 10 Aug. 2018 The exercise was the first statewide in a growing practice called participatory budgeting, in which local governments not only ask but depend on their citizens to decide how best to spend their tax dollars, usually discretionary capital funds. Michaelle Bond, Philly.com, "WiFi? Street repairs? Parks? Cities let residents choose how to spend their tax dollars," 14 May 2018 The economy's hurt us a little bit just because people don't have as much discretionary income to spend. Annie Zak, Anchorage Daily News, "Shop Talk: Stewart’s Photo survived the ’64 earthquake. Now, it survives smartphones.," 28 Apr. 2018 Union members want the fire marshal to have discretionary power to either modify or reject these safety improvements. Rachel Swan, San Francisco Chronicle, "Solving transit troubles key in SF mayor’s race," 21 Apr. 2018 Those declines have weighed on the S&P 500’s consumer-discretionary sector, which snapped a four-session losing streak Thursday but is down 10.2% since the start of October. Amrith Ramkumar, WSJ, "Retailers Slump as Market Volatility Spreads," 15 Nov. 2018 The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 increases defense discretionary funding by $80 billion in Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 and by $85 billion in FY 2019, opening the door for the United States to implement strategies for renewed dominance. Henry Obering Iii, Fortune, "I Used to Direct the Missile Defense Agency. America Needs New Weapons," 5 July 2018 Each county supervisor also has a $2 million discretionary Neighborhood Reinvestment Program budget, so some Community Enhancement requests may be fulfilled by that source. Joe Naiman, Ramona Sentinel, "Eight nonprofits receive $251,806 in hotel tax money," 3 July 2018 In May, Tanzanian bloggers lost an appeal that had temporarily suspended a new set of regulations granting the country’s Communication Regulatory Authority discretionary powers to censor online content. Shayera Dark, The Verge, "Strict new internet laws in Tanzania are driving bloggers and content creators offline," 6 July 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

see discreet

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Statistics for discretionary

Last Updated

7 Dec 2018

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 \

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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a soft lustrous wool fabric with mohair

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