[ dih-surn-muhnt, -zurn- ]
/ dɪˈsɜrn mənt, -ˈzɜrn- /
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the faculty of discerning; discrimination; acuteness of judgment and understanding.
the act or an instance of discerning.
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Origin of discernment

1580–90; <Middle French discernement, equivalent to discern(er) to discern + -ment-ment

OTHER WORDS FROM discernment

non·dis·cern·ment, nounpre·dis·cern·ment, nounself-dis·cern·ment, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does discernment mean?

Discernment is the ability to recognize small details, accurately tell the difference between similar things, and make intelligent judgements by using such observations.

It’s a noun form of the verb discern, which means to recognize, distinguish, or make judgments in this way, as in These two scents may smell identical to the average person, but an experienced perfumer can discern the difference between them.

Things that can be identified or distinguished in such a way can be described as discernible. The adjective discerning can be used to describe someone who shows discernment or to describe such an ability, as in Most chefs have a very discerning palate. A close synonym is discriminating. The noun discrimination can be used to mean the same thing as discernment (though it’s more commonly used to refer to the practice of prejudicial treatment, which is not one of the senses of discernment).

Example: Only through careful discernment can you tell a genuine artifact from the work of a counterfeiter.

Where does discernment come from?

The first records of the word discernment come from the late 1500s. Its base word, the verb discern, derives from the Latin term discernere, meaning “to separate” or “to divide,” from dis-, meaning “apart,” and cernere, “to separate.” The suffix -ment indicates a process or action: the process of discerning.

Discernment is the ability to tell things apart—to separate them, even when they appear to be very similar. People with discernment are able to make keen observations about things. Discernment is often thought to be an ability of those with wisdom or experience. It 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 discernment

  • nondiscernment (noun)
  • prediscernment  (noun)
  • self-discernment (noun)
  • discern (verb)

What are some synonyms for discernment?

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


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

How is discernment used in real life?

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



Try using discernment!

Which of the following actions is LEAST likely to be involved in the process of discernment

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

How to use discernment in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for discernment

/ (dɪˈsɜːnmənt) /

keen perception or judgment
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