Definition of discretion in English:


See synonyms for discretion

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  • 1The quality of behaving or speaking in such a way as to avoid causing offense or revealing private information.

    ‘she knew she could rely on his discretion’
    • ‘The truth is any parent who thinks their child is the soul of discretion on the internet is likely to be wrong.’
    • ‘If these people play fair and use discretion and common sense, they shall have my full support.’
    • ‘Whoever put them in that group probably hoped discretion and goodwill would make sense of an anomaly.’
    • ‘Huge sums of money are at stake, so timing and discretion are paramount.’
    • ‘Rumour has it that eminent politicians come here seeking discretion and peace.’
    • ‘Paul is renowned for his discretion, for keeping his counsel as well as his word.’
    • ‘His discretion in the face of so scrofulous and untutored a palate as mine was marvellous.’
    • ‘You need never worry about announcing yourself to her, she is the absolute soul of discretion if you want to keep your ID to yourself.’
    • ‘I am hoping for discretion and will certainly give that in return.’
    • ‘The lawmaker, hoping for discretion, deploys a shadowy envoy to send her child support in the form of regular wads of cash.’
    circumspection, care, carefulness, caution, wariness, chariness, guardedness
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  • 2The freedom to decide what should be done in a particular situation.

    ‘it is up to local authorities to use their discretion in setting the charges’
    • ‘a pass-fail grading system may be used at the discretion of the department’
    • ‘Rules say bus drivers can use their discretion regarding dogs but they must have a valid reason for refusing.’
    • ‘He says he hopes selectors use their discretion and pick him for the event anyway.’
    • ‘However, it is entirely at the discretion of local authorities how this is applied.’
    • ‘It will be for the court to exercise its discretion in deciding whether this is the situation.’
    • ‘It will be entirely at the discretion of the government to decide whether or not to amend that law.’
    • ‘He believes officers should use their discretion when dealing with speeding offences.’
    • ‘If your score lies between a band, then it is at the discretion of the exam board what classification you receive.’
    • ‘Refunds for late cancellations will be at the discretion of the organisers.’
    • ‘Visiting outside these times will be at the discretion of the senior midwife.’
    • ‘The committee will use its discretion in deciding whether to grant permission or not.’
    • ‘It says that any residence visa or permit is at the discretion of the Minister of Immigration.’
    • ‘Some players also allow the ace to be worth one or fourteen at the discretion of the person who plays or captures it.’
    • ‘State courts have far greater powers of discretion in sentencing than federal courts.’
    • ‘The trial judge was entitled to exercise his discretion in dismissing the motion.’
    • ‘What discretion do local authorities have in devising their allocations schemes?’
    • ‘It is then up to the police to decide, in the exercise of their discretion, whether to grant the favour or not.’
    • ‘That is always a difficult task for an authority, because it is left with discretion.’
    • ‘The granting of such consent shall be at the sole and absolute discretion of each of the parties.’
    • ‘The person purporting to exercise his discretion has acted in abuse or excess of his power.’
    • ‘A number of factors will be taken into account in deciding whether to exercise the discretion.’
    choice, option, judgement, preference, disposition, volition
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/dəˈskreSH(ə)n/ /dəˈskrɛʃ(ə)n/


    discretion is the better part of valor
    • It is better to avoid a dangerous situation than to confront it.

      ‘There are times when discretion is the better part of valour, of course.’
      • ‘‘There's a point at which discretion is the better part of valour with respect to legal disputes,’ he said.’
      • ‘My co-worker came from this area, however, and discretion is the better part of valour.’
      • ‘They have instead opted to pass up on a big pay day on the basis that discretion is the better part of valour.’
      • ‘With these credentials, a reasonable person would conclude that discretion is the better part of valor and bite his tongue.’


Middle English (in the sense ‘discernment’): via Old French from Latin discretio(n-) ‘separation’ (in late Latin ‘discernment’), from discernere (see discern).