• synonyms


[dih-surn, -zurn]
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.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to distinguish or discriminate.
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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 for discern

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 discerner

Historical Examples of discerner

  • In it is a cave where dwells a saint who is called ‘The Discerner.’

    The Chinese Fairy Book


  • He was a lover of truth, and believed himself to be a discerner of it.

    A Spirit in Prison

    Robert Hichens

  • It was an acknowledged sign of a true prophet to be a discerner of hearts.

  • It is described as "a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."

  • It is the true "discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."

    Practical Religion

    John Charles Ryle

British Dictionary definitions for discerner


  1. (tr) to recognize or perceive clearly
  2. to recognize or perceive (differences)
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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

Word Origin and History for discerner



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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper