Discharge Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How to Use It

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Have you ever wondered what the word discharge means? Well, this word actually has a few definitions. If you’ve ever been confused when hearing it, maybe it’s because one of these definitions has eluded you. 

The word discharge and its various meanings are pretty straightforward, but it can be easy to mix them up. That’s why it’s important to learn them all so that you can speak and listen with clarity. 

By the end of this guide to the word discharge, you’ll be familiar with the various definitions of the word and understand how to use them all. Let’s get started. 

What Are the Definitions of Discharge? 

There is not just one definition of discharge. There are four that are most relevant in the English language:

  • To let somebody officially leave a place, such as a hospital, prison, or the military
  • To let out a substance, typically a waste or byproduct; waste that is let out from a place or object
  • To perform an official task
  • The act of a bullet being fired from a gun

The common theme among these definitions is that something is “going out” or “exiting.” Whether it’s waste, a person, a bullet, or duties, something is going from inside to outside. 

To Let Somebody Out

One of the more common definitions of the word means to let somebody out of somewhere. For example, you can be discharged from a hospital, discharged from prison, or discharged from the military. This context is a formal, official connotation

To Let Out Waste

Discharge can also mean the act of letting out waste. Waste can be discharged from a factory, or maybe your car discharges some excess oil. The most common usage of this particular definition is in regards to vaginal discharge

This is where a white discharge or other secretions come out of the vagina. There is some level of normal vaginal discharge that comes with the vaginal bleeding of the menstrual cycle and ovulation. Abnormal vaginal discharge can be a symptom of any of these medical issues: 

  • Yeast infection 
  • Bacterial vaginosis
  • Trichomoniasis 
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STI), or sexually transmitted diseases (STD)
  • Vaginitis
  • A bacterial infection
  • Cervical cancer
  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Urinary tract infections (UTI)
  • Menopause
  • Changes in estrogen levels

Discharge can be associated with vaginal itching, dryness, pelvic pain, or soreness. If you experience discharge changes that make it abnormal, it’s best to seek medical advice from a healthcare provider. 

Sometimes, excess vaginal discharge is simply caused by birth control. Excessive discharge, or a change in discharge frequency is a common side effect of birth control. The excess secretions make it more difficult for sperm to move, improving the birth control’s effectiveness. 

Discharge is considered abnormal when it changes in texture or smell. Abnormal discharge can be frothy or have a texture similar to cottage cheese. 

In the case of abnormal vaginal discharge, do not use douching. This can mess with the pH and environment in the vagina and lead to more problems. Also, avoid scented soaps or feminine products. And don’t put anything inside your vagina except for a clean, safe tampon. 

To Perform Duties

The word discharge can also mean the action of performing official tasks or duties. This is mostly used to refer to formal, official duties, and it is not often used in casual conversation. 

A Bullet From a Gun

Discharge is also used when referring to firearms. It can be said that a projectile has been discharged from a firearm. This is a common way to refer to a gun shooting a bullet, and it is commonly used by police and media when talking about guns. 

Where Did the Word Discharge Come From? 

The word discharge, like so many words in the English language, comes from Latin. The Latin dis- means “not or none.” The Latin word carricare means “to load.” By combining these two together, you get the Late Latin word discarricare, meaning “to unload.” 

Before this Latin word made its way into English, it made its way into French. The French word descharger means the same thing: “to unload.” 

When the word finally made it into Middle English, the spelling and meaning had changed slightly. The English word “discharge,” when it first came into the language, meant “to relieve of an obligation.” 

Over time, the definition of the word continued to evolve. The common theme of one thing leaving another remained consistent, but more specific definitions were solidified, eventually giving us the four we see today. 

What Are Some Examples of Discharge in a Sentence?

Here are some example sentences that use the word discharge in each of its definitions. 

After a successful birth, Amy and her newborn were discharged from the hospital.

My uncle got discharged from prison last night, so we’re having a big celebration today. 

As the seaside factory discharged all its chemicals, the nearby coral reef took heavy damage.

My vaginal discharge keeps ruining my clothes!

I have frequent urination, inflamed vulva, and abnormal discharge, so I think I might have an STD. 

He is a great employee, always able to discharge his duties effectively. 

The perpetrator discharged 6 rounds from his firearm, but thankfully nobody was injured.

After discharging his weapon, the police officer stopped the murderer, saving the civilians nearby. 

What Are the Synonyms of Discharge? 

Here are some synonyms for the word discharge that you might find in a thesaurus.

  • Release
  • Remittance
  • Clearance
  • Emission
  • Flow
  • Emptying
  • Excretion
  • Ooze
  • Disburdening
  • Emptying
  • Accomplishment
  • Achievement
  • Fulfillment 
  • Let go
  • Expel
  • Remove
  • Shoot
  • Fire

The Word Discharge

Now you know everything you need to know about the word discharge. Use it confidently in your writing and your speech. If you need a refresher on the word discharge, its multiple definitions, or how to use it, feel free to come back to this article for additional information you may need. 


DISCHARGE | Cambridge English Dictionary 

Discharge Definition | Glossary of Statistical Terms 

Vaginal Discharge | Cleveland Clinic