Definition of discern in English:

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Pronunciation: /dəˈsərn/


[with object]
1Perceive or recognize (something): I can discern no difference between the two policies [with clause]: students quickly discern what is acceptable to the teacher
More example sentences
  • With its limited focus upon a day where a number of important issues came to a head, incomplete or biased coverage could quickly be discerned.
  • Between the two names, no effective difference can be discerned.
  • In many cases, statistically significant differences could be discerned by participants.
1.1Distinguish (someone or something) with difficulty by sight or with the other senses: she could faintly discern the shape of a skull
More example sentences
  • Only those with dyslexia had difficulty discerning the beat in continuous sounds containing sudden rises and falls in loudness, as in such speech transitions as sweet.
  • Her feline sensitive ears could discern a distinct cry coming from each man's mouth.
  • A laugh, golden and delicious, floated up to him on the breeze and he leaned over the railing, peering down and faintly discerning the hedge wall of the royal garden beneath him.
perceive, make out, pick out, detect, recognize, notice, observe, see, spot;
identify, determine, distinguish
literary descry, espy



Example sentences
  • Instead, it was an opportunity for us to not only be passive receivers of news product but discerners of true knowledge.
  • Instead of a passive receiver of information, the viewer is engaged as a highly activated questioner and discerner of aesthetic relationships.
  • He, who is satisfied through the Guru grace, becomes the discerner of the Guru's word.


Late Middle English: via Old French from Latin discernere, from dis- 'apart' + cernere 'to separate'.

  • crime from Middle English:

    The early meanings of crime were ‘wickedness’ and ‘sin’. The word comes via Old French from Latin crimen ‘judgement or offence’, which was based on cernere ‘to judge’ also in concern (Late Middle English), recriminate (early 17th century), and discern (Late Middle English). The expression crime doesn't pay was a slogan associated with the 1930s American radio crime series The Shadow, in which it was spoken by the Shadow at the end of each broadcast. It originated earlier, though, and was the title of a silent film in 1912.

Words that rhyme with discern

adjourn, astern, Berne, burn, churn, concern, earn, fern, fohn, kern, learn, Lucerne, quern, Sauternes, spurn, stern, Sterne, tern, terne, Traherne, turn, urn, Verne, yearn

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: dis·cern

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