Dictionary.com
definitions
  • synonyms

discern

[dih-surn, -zurn]
See more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
verb (used with object)
  1. to perceive by the sight or some other sense or by the intellect; see, recognize, or apprehend: They discerned a sail on the horizon.
  2. to distinguish mentally; recognize as distinct or different; discriminate: He is incapable of discerning right from wrong.
verb (used without object)
  1. to distinguish or discriminate.

Origin of discern

1300–50; Middle English (< Old French) < Latin discernere to separate, equivalent to dis- dis-1 + cernere to separate
Related formsdis·cern·er, nounpre·dis·cern, verb (used with object)un·dis·cerned, adjective

Synonyms

See more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
1. discover, descry, espy. See notice. 2, 3. differentiate, judge.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for discern

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • In the nearer ranks we may discern the variety of ingredients that compose the mass.

    Biographical Sketches

    Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • The physical facts couldn't be denied, and beyond the physical facts I could discern nothing.

  • The second course was so equal that the keenest judges could not discern any vantage.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • Within the door of the cottage you discern the wife, with her ruddy English cheek.

    Main Street

    Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • She had an eye to discern, and a courage to seize, an important crisis.


British Dictionary definitions for discern

discern

verb
  1. (tr) to recognize or perceive clearly
  2. to recognize or perceive (differences)
Derived Formsdiscerner, noun

Word Origin

C14: from Old French discerner, from Latin discernere to divide, from dis- 1 (apart) + cernere to separate
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for discern

v.

late 14c., from Old French discerner (13c.) "distinguish (between), separate" (by sifting), and directly from Latin discernere "to separate, set apart, divide, distribute; distinguish, perceive," from dis- "off, away" (see dis-) + cernere "distinguish, separate, sift" (see crisis). Related: Discerned; discerning.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

  • About
  • Cookies, Terms, & Privacy
© 2018 Dictionary.com, LLC.