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[dih-skreet] /dɪˈskrit/
judicious in one's conduct or speech, especially with regard to respecting privacy or maintaining silence about something of a delicate nature; prudent; circumspect.
showing prudence and circumspection; decorous:
a discreet silence.
modestly unobtrusive; unostentatious:
a discreet, finely wrought gold necklace.
Origin of discreet
1325-75; Middle English discret < Anglo-French, Old French < Medieval Latin discrētus, Latin: separated (past participle of discernere; see discern), equivalent to dis- dis-1 + crē- separate, distinguish (variant stem of cernere) + -tus past participle suffix
Related forms
discreetly, adverb
discreetness, noun
overdiscreet, adjective
overdiscreetly, adverb
overdiscreetness, noun
quasi-discreet, adjective
quasi-discreetly, adverb
Can be confused
discreet, discrete.
1. indiscreet.
Synonym Study
1. See careful. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for discreetness
Historical Examples
  • discreetness, therefore, was instructed to reign at the Abbey.

  • After all, you know, I think that discreetness is just talk.

    Moral Ludwig Thoma
  • Would they be boilin' us the night wid the discreetness of 'em?

    The Belted Seas Arthur Colton
  • You were discreetness itself, and the man you called Barney was a capital actor, and a rare good fellow too.

    Out of a Labyrinth

    Lawrence L. Lynch
  • You may depend upon me to be discreetness itself, at least until after Dick has been safely shipped.

    The Snare Rafael Sabatini
  • Milray seemed to feel the note of discreetness in her laugh, and he asked, smiling, "How old did you tell me you were?"

    Ragged Lady, Complete William Dean Howells
  • They were fine and edifying in parts, but lacked the discreetness and holding back I always find in Mr. Plutarch.

    Poppea of the Post-Office Mabel Osgood Wright
  • You have not taken the discreetness I have shown into consideration, although you were interested in remaining silent.

    Ten Years Later Alexandre Dumas, Pere
British Dictionary definitions for discreetness


careful to avoid social embarrassment or distress, esp by keeping confidences secret; tactful
Derived Forms
discreetly, adverb
discreetness, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Old French discret, from Medieval Latin discrētus, from Latin discernere to discern
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for discreetness



mid-14c., "morally discerning, prudent, circumspect," from Old French discret "discreet, sensible, intelligent, wise," from Latin discretus "separated, distinct," in Medieval Latin "discerning, careful," past participle of discernere "distinguish" (see discern). Meaning "separate, distinct" in English is late 14c.

Spellings discrete and nativized discreet co-existed until after c.1600, when discreet became the common word for "careful, prudent," and discrete was maintained in philosophy, medicine, music and other disciplines that remembered Latin and made effort to obey it. Related: Discreetly.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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