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 Each council member is given $1 million in discretionary funds for roads in their districts. Sarah Ravani, SFChronicle.com, "Oakland kicks off ‘Great Pave’ with fresh asphalt for Fruitvale side street," 22 Aug. 2019 But much of the money went to discretionary funds of state legislatures. Jan Hoffman, BostonGlobe.com, "States clash with cities over potential opioids settlement payouts," 5 Aug. 2019 But until Petrino and Schnatter have been paid off, discretionary funds may be scarce. Tim Sullivan, The Courier-Journal, "University of Louisville athletics reports $11.2 million deficit, but cash is still flowing," 24 Jan. 2020 Virginia will assume about one-third of the cost using existing rail funding and additional discretionary funds available through the Commonwealth Transportation Board. Washington Post, "Virginia’s $3.7 billion rail plan called a ‘game changer.’ Here’s what we know about it.," 11 Jan. 2020 The members of the Jefferson County Commission then each gave $1,600 from their discretionary funds to add an additional $8,000 to Crime Stoppers' reward, bringing the total offering to $33,000. Madeline Holcombe, CNN, "An Alabama 3-year-old has been missing nearly a week. There are few clues and the reward has been increased to $33,000," 18 Oct. 2019 Mandell and Kennedy's lawyer, Matthew O'Neill, both cited a state Supreme Court case that found most state election laws should be seen as discretionary, not mandatory. Daniel Bice, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "On a tie vote, election panel keeps two Milwaukee County executive candidates on the ballot despite blunder," 14 Jan. 2020 Instead, the parties split the difference on their second priorities, by matching large (Democratic) defense-spending cuts with equal (Republican) domestic discretionary reductions. Brian Riedl, National Review, "Senate Republicans Are Not ‘Obstructionist’," 9 Jan. 2020 The incentives are divided into two categories -- statutory and discretionary. Hunter Field, Arkansas Online, "Tax incentives audit cites impact on state; critics doubt programs key to luring firms," 14 Dec. 2019

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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Time Traveler for discretionary

Time Traveler

The first known use of discretionary was in 1698

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Statistics for discretionary

Last Updated

16 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Discretionary.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discretionary. Accessed 29 Feb. 2020.

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How to pronounce discretionary (audio)

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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