dis·​cre·​tion di-ˈskre-shən How to pronounce discretion (audio)
: individual choice or judgment
left the decision to his discretion
: power of free decision or latitude of choice within certain legal bounds
reached the age of discretion
: the quality of having or showing discernment or good judgment : the quality of being discreet : circumspection
especially : cautious reserve in speech
: ability to make responsible decisions
: the result of separating or distinguishing

Example Sentences

Though it is worth noting that to live in a place where other people come just for pleasure has the odd effect of making me feel transient, while the visitors seem more fixed and permanent in their lives, coming as they do from more conventional homes far away. It is as if I am always waiting for them and am here at their discretion. Richard Ford, Wall Street Journal, 14-15 June 2008 In Texas "capital" murder doesn't necessarily mean a death-penalty case; it's the designation for any aggravated murder, and prosecutors have full discretion in deciding whether to seek death in such cases. John Cloud, Time, 14 July 2003 Del Monte was a courtier, bureaucrat, diplomat and politician born and bred and he understood the need for discretion. Peter Robb, The Man Who Became Caravaggio, (1998) 1999 Each artist in the gallery has discretion over the price that will be charged for his or her work. The coach used his own discretion to let the injured quarterback play. He always uses care and discretion when dealing with others. She handled the awkward situation with great discretion. See More
Recent Examples on the Web This approach led him to conclude in an infamous set of memos after Election Day in 2020 that the Twelfth Amendment allows the vice president to throw out individual states’ electoral votes at his discretion and personally declare a winner. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 27 Jan. 2023 The lawmakers acknowledged prosecutors have quietly used their lawful discretion for years to decide how to handle cases. Dallas News, 19 Jan. 2023 More recently the crises engulfing princes Andrew and Harry have only served to highlight Anne’s dignified style, as well as her discretion—traits perhaps inherited from her mother, to whom she is said to have become increasingly close. Simon Usborne, Town & Country, 18 Jan. 2023 If a potential strike is approved, as expected, union leaders would have the authority to call a strike at their discretion. Howard Blumestaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 17 Jan. 2023 For one thing, payment rates for providers are not regularly raised over time in line with inflation, but rather are decided by lawmakers at their own discretion. San Diego Union-Tribune, 15 Jan. 2023 The Department of Public Works, the city’s golf professionals, and the golf oversight commission would be given the latitude to lower the prices at their discretion in order to attract more golfers. Pam Mcloughlin, Hartford Courant, 15 Jan. 2023 Masterson’s lawyer Philip Kent Cohen notes in a filing this week that a defendant can’t formally move for a dismissal, but his client does have the right to invite the court to exercise its discretion. Ashley Cullins, The Hollywood Reporter, 6 Jan. 2023 Another supporter launched a GoFundMe whose proceeds will go directly to Booth, to be spent at her own discretion. Miles Klee, Rolling Stone, 4 Jan. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Middle English discrecioun "rational perception, moral discernment, good judgment," borrowed from Anglo-French & Late Latin; Anglo-French discreciun, descrecion, borrowed from Late Latin discrētiōn-, discrētiō "separation, act or power of distinguishing, caution, prudence," going back to Latin, "division, discrimination," from discrē-, variant stem of discernere "to separate, distinguish" + -tiōn-, -tiō, suffix of verbal action — more at discern

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of discretion was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near discretion

Cite this Entry

“Discretion.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discretion. Accessed 6 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition


dis·​cre·​tion dis-ˈkresh-ən How to pronounce discretion (audio)
: the quality of being discreet : prudence
: individual choice or judgment
left the decision to your discretion
: power of free decision
reached the age of discretion

Legal Definition


dis·​cre·​tion dis-ˈkre-shən How to pronounce discretion (audio)
: power of free decision or latitude of choice within certain bounds imposed by law
reached the age of discretion
struck down death penalty provisions administered through unbridled jury discretionL. H. Tribe
: as
: the power of a judge to use his or her own judgment in making decisions guided by what is fair and equitable and by principles of law see also abuse of discretion
: the power of a public official or employee to act and make decisions based on his or her own judgment or conscience within the bounds of reason and the law

More from Merriam-Webster on discretion

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