[ dih-surn, -zurn ]
/ dɪˈsɜrn, -ˈzɜrn /

verb (used with object)

to perceive by the sight or some other sense or by the intellect; see, recognize, or apprehend: They discerned a sail on the horizon.
to distinguish mentally; recognize as distinct or different; discriminate: He is incapable of discerning right from wrong.

verb (used without object)

to distinguish or discriminate.

Nearby words

  1. discant,
  2. discard,
  3. discarnate,
  4. discase,
  5. discectomy,
  6. discernible,
  7. discerning,
  8. discernment,
  9. discerptible,
  10. discharge

Origin of discern

1300–50; Middle English (< Old French) < Latin discernere to separate, equivalent to dis- dis-1 + cernere to separate

1. discover, descry, espy. See notice. 2, 3. differentiate, judge.

Related formsdis·cern·er, nounpre·dis·cern, verb (used with object)un·dis·cerned, adjective

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for discern

British Dictionary definitions for discern


/ (dɪˈsɜːn) /


(tr) to recognize or perceive clearly
to recognize or perceive (differences)
Derived Formsdiscerner, noun

Word Origin for discern

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