[ dih-sur-ning, -zur- ]
/ dɪˈsɜr nɪŋ, -ˈzɜr- /
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See synonyms for: discerning / discerningly on Thesaurus.com

showing good or outstanding judgment and understanding: a discerning critic of French poetry.
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Origin of discerning

First recorded in 1600–10; discern + -ing2


dis·cern·ing·ly, adverbnon·dis·cern·ing, adjectiveun·dis·cern·ing, adjectiveun·dis·cern·ing·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021


What does discerning mean?

Discerning is an adjective that means able to discern—recognize small details, accurately tell the difference between similar things, and make intelligent judgements by using such observations.

Discerning is also the continuous (-ing) form of the verb discern. As an adjective, it can be used to describe someone who has the ability to discern or to describe such an ability.

The ability to do this or the process of doing it is called discernment, as in Only through careful discernment can you tell a genuine artifact from the work of a counterfeiter. Things that can be identified or distinguished in such a way can be described as discernible.

A close synonym of discerning is discriminating (not in the prejudicial sense).

Example: Most chefs have a very discerning sense of taste.

Where does discerning come from?

The first records of discerning as an adjective come from the 1600s. It derives from the Latin discernere, meaning “to separate” or “to divide,” from dis-, meaning “apart,” and cernere, “to separate.”

To be discerning is to be able to tell things apart—to separate them, even when they appear to be very similar. People who are discerning are able to make keen observations about things. A person with a discerning palate may be able to discern flavors that others cannot. This ability is often associated with wisdom and experience. Being discerning also often involves making a judgment, especially about things that aren’t obvious. For example, it takes discernment to accurately judge someone’s character.

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What are some other forms related to discerning

  • discerningly (adverb)
  • nondiscerning (adjective)
  • undiscerning (adjective)
  • undiscerningly (adverb)
  • discern (verb)

What are some synonyms for discerning?

What are some words that share a root or word element with discerning




What are some words that often get used in discussing discerning?

How is discerning used in real life?

Discerning is a somewhat formal word and is typically used in serious contexts.



Try using discerning!

Which of the following actions is NOT associated with someone who’s discerning

A. differentiating
B. distinguishing
C. discriminating
D. ignoring

How to use discerning in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for discerning

/ (dɪˈsɜːnɪŋ) /

having or showing good taste or judgment; discriminating

Derived forms of discerning

discerningly, adverb
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