Definition of discretion in English:



mass noun
  • 1The quality of behaving or speaking in such a way as to avoid causing offence or revealing confidential information.

    ‘she knew she could rely on his discretion’
    ‘I'll be the soul of discretion’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The lawmaker, hoping for discretion, deploys a shadowy envoy to send her child support in the form of regular wads of cash.’
    • ‘Paul is renowned for his discretion, for keeping his counsel as well as his word.’
    • ‘Huge sums of money are at stake, so timing and discretion are paramount.’
    • ‘His discretion in the face of so scrofulous and untutored a palate as mine was marvellous.’
    • ‘I am hoping for discretion and will certainly give that in return.’
    • ‘Rumour has it that eminent politicians come here seeking discretion and peace.’
    • ‘The truth is any parent who thinks their child is the soul of discretion on the internet is likely to be wrong.’
    circumspection, care, carefulness, caution, wariness, chariness, guardedness
    View synonyms
  • 2The freedom to decide what should be done in a particular situation.

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


  • discretion is the better part of valour

    • proverb It's better to avoid a dangerous situation than to confront it.

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


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