AskDefine | Define discretion

Dictionary Definition



1 freedom to act or judge on one's own
2 knowing how to avoid embarrassment or distress; "the servants showed great tact and discretion" [syn: discreetness, circumspection, prudence]
3 refined taste; tact [syn: delicacy]
4 the power of making free choices unconstrained by external agencies [syn: free will]
5 the trait of judging wisely and objectively; "a man of discernment" [syn: discernment]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. The quality of being discreet or circumspect
    Bob showed great discretion despite his knowledge of the affair.
  2. The ability to make wise choices or decisions
  3. The freedom to make one's own judgements
    I leave that to your discretion.


Derived terms


The quality of being discreet or circumspect
The ability to make wise choices or decisions
The freedom to make one's own judgements
  • French: discrétion
  • Romanian: discreţie

Extensive Definition

Discretion is a noun in the English language.


The word has two main meanings:
  1. to determine guilt or innocence
  2. to determine sentencing.
"The Art of suiting action to particular circumstances" Lord Scarman


Those in a position of power are most often able to exercise discretion as to how they will apply or exercise that power.
In the criminal justice system, police, prosecutors, judges, and the jury are often able to exercise a degree of discretion in deciding who will be subject to criminal penalties and how they will be punished. For example, the police officer may decide whom to formally arrest for an offense. For a traffic violation, a police officer may simply issue a warning. A prosecutor may choose to pursue the same or different charges against the person a police officer has arrested. Discretion gives the prosecutor the power to dismiss a case against an arrestee based on factors such as the probability of conviction, the nature of the offense, the characteristics of the offender, and availability of adequate civil remedies. Plea bargaining also plays a major role in determining charges.
The exercise of discretion by judges is an inherent aspect of judicial independence under the doctrine of the separation of powers. The standard of review applied to appeals from decisions involving the exercise of judicial discretion is "abuse of discretion."
The term often comes as part of "Viewer Discretion Is Advised" warning on TV shows before the show begins. In this context, VDA implies the show's content may not be suitable for all viewers.
discretion in German: Diskretion

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

airtight secrecy, aloofness, alternate choice, alternative, animus, anticipation, appetence, appetency, appetite, backwardness, bashfulness, blankness, calculation, canniness, care, careful consideration, carefulness, caution, cautiousness, chilliness, choice, circumspection, circumspectness, close secrecy, closeness, coldness, command, common sense, conation, conatus, concealment, consideration, constraint, contemplation, cool judgment, coolness, crypticness, decision, deliberate stages, deliberateness, deliberation, desire, detachment, determination, diplomacy, discernment, discreetness, discrimination, disposition, distance, envisagement, envisionment, evasion, evasiveness, expressionlessness, fancy, farseeingness, farsightedness, forecast, foreglance, foregleam, foreglimpse, forehandedness, foreseeing, foresight, foresightedness, forethought, free choice, free decision, free will, frigidity, frostiness, full consent, gingerliness, good judgment, good sense, guardedness, gumption, hedge, hedging, heed, heedfulness, hesitation, hiddenness, hugger-mugger, hugger-muggery, iciness, impassiveness, impassivity, impersonality, inaccessibility, inclination, intention, introversion, judgement, judgment, judiciousness, liking, longsightedness, looking ahead, lust, mind, mindfulness, moderation, modesty, noncontingent free will, objective, option, optionality, passion, pawkiness, pleasure, policy, polity, possible choice, precaution, prediction, preference, preparation, prepublication, preview, prevision, prior consultation, prospect, prospection, providence, provision, prudence, prudentialism, prudentialness, readiness, reflection, reflectiveness, regardfulness, remoteness, repression, reserve, reservedness, resolution, restraint, reticence, reticency, retirement, safeness, safety first, sagacity, say, say-so, secrecy, secretiveness, secretness, sense, sexual desire, slowness to act, solicitude, sound judgment, soundness of judgment, standoffishness, subduedness, subterfuge, suppression, tact, tentativeness, the dark, thoroughness, thoughtfulness, unaffability, unapproachability, uncommunicativeness, uncongeniality, undemonstrativeness, unexpansiveness, unprecipitateness, velleity, volition, weighing, will, will and pleasure, will power, wisdom, wish, withdrawal, withdrawnness
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