c. 1300, dyscrecyounne, "ability to perceive and understand;" mid-14c., "moral discernment, ability to distinguish right from wrong;" c. 1400, "prudence, sagacity regarding one's conduct," from Old French discrecion and directly from Medieval Latin discretionem (nominative discretio) "discernment, power to make distinctions," in classical Latin "separation, distinction," noun of state from past-participle stem of discernere "to separate, distinguish" (see discern).
Phrase at (one's) discretion attested from 1570s (earlier in (one's) discretion, late 14c.), from sense of "power to decide or judge, power of acting according to one's own judgment" (late 14c.). The age of discretion (late 14c.) in English law was 14.
mid-14c. (c. 1200 as a surname), "intelligence; discretion, foresight; practical wisdom to see what is suitable or profitable;" also one of the four cardinal virtues, "wisdom to see what is virtuous;" from Old French prudence (13c.) and directly from Latin prudentia "a foreseeing, foresight, sagacity, practical judgment," contraction of providentia "foresight" (see providence, which is a doublet). The secondary sense of "knowledge, science" (late 14c.) is preserved in jurisprudence.
late 14c., "faculty of making a choice or decision, judgment, discretion;" early 15c., "authority or responsibility for deciding a dispute," from Old French arbitracion and directly from Latin arbitrationem (nominative arbitratio) "judgment, will," noun of action from past-participle stem of arbitrari "to be of an opinion, give a decision," from arbiter "a judge, umpire, mediator" (see arbiter). Meaning "settlement of a dispute by a third party" is from 1630s. Related: Arbitrative.
In reference to animals, "to lose hair, feathers, etc." recorded from c. 1500; of trees losing leaves from 1590s; of clothes, 1858. This verb was used in Old English to gloss Late Latin words in the sense "to discriminate, to decide" that literally mean "to divide, separate" (compare discern). Hence also scead (n.) "separation, distinction; discretion, understanding, reason;" sceadwisnes "discrimination, discretion." Related: Shedding. A shedding-tooth (1799) was a milk-tooth or baby-tooth.