dis·​cre·​tion·​ary di-ˈskre-shə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce discretionary (audio)
: left to individual choice or judgment : exercised at one's own discretion
discretionary powers
: 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 The political tug of war over discretionary spending matters little. WSJ, 4 Dec. 2023 Their effort is based on decades of research that shows that women police officers use force less frequently than men, are the target of fewer civilian complaints and make fewer discretionary arrests, especially of nonwhite residents. Tracey Tully Hannah Yoon, New York Times, 4 Dec. 2023 But Williams Sonoma’s portfolio of nice-to-have brands could hurt the company if discretionary budgets get even tighter. Emma Hinchliffe, Fortune, 30 Nov. 2023 Finally, look for ways to reduce discretionary spending. Jaime Catmull, Forbes, 30 Nov. 2023 Walmart executives told investors that Americans are continuing to pull back on discretionary spending, adding that health, wellness and grocery sales outperformed general merchandise. Jaclyn Peiser, Washington Post, 28 Nov. 2023 The money, paid by taxpayers, flowed into the 5th Circuit’s discretionary fund. Anat Rubin, ProPublica, 4 Nov. 2023 Consumer spending has shifted more to services instead of goods, along with pressure in certain big-ticket discretionary categories. Trefis Team, Forbes, 13 Nov. 2023 Any of this trio could also take home the discretionary Chronometry Prize too. Elizabeth Doerr, Robb Report, 7 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'discretionary.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


discretion + -ary entry 2

First Known Use

1698, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of discretionary was in 1698

Dictionary Entries Near discretionary

Cite this Entry

“Discretionary.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discretionary. Accessed 10 Dec. 2023.

Legal Definition


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

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