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discreet

[ dih-skreet ]
/ dɪˈskrit /
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See synonyms for: discreet / discreetly / discreetness on Thesaurus.com

adjective
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.
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Origin of discreet

First recorded in 1325–75; Middle English discret, from Anglo-French, Old French, from Medieval Latin discrētus, Latin: “separated” (past participle of discernere; “to separate”), equivalent to dis- “apart, away” + crē- “separate, distinguish” (variant stem of cernere ) + -tus past participle suffix; see discern, dis-1

synonym study for discreet

1. See careful.

historical usage of discreet

Discreet, meaning “judicious, prudent, modest,” comes partly from Middle French discret “prudent, discerning,” used in Anglo-French in the sense “wise person.” The Latin source was discrētus, past participle of the verb discernere “to separate, distinguish, mark off, show differences between.” In Late Latin discrētus also acquired the sense “prudent, wise,” possibly arising from association with the noun discrētiō, which shows a similar semantic development: physical separation to discernment to capacity to discern.
Discrete, “apart or detached from others; separate; distinct,” was originally a spelling doublet of discreet, sharing meanings and both deriving from the same Latin source. The spelling discrete is closer in form to Latin discrētus and is probably an attempt to differentiate discreet from discrete.
The Middle English Dictionary has two senses at the headword discrēt(e): the sense “wise, morally discerning, prudent, circumspect” has 29 citations; the sense “separate, distinct” has four (in angelology, astronomy, and mathematics).
It wasn’t until the late 16th century that discrete became restricted to its present meanings, leaving the spelling discreet to predominate in its own current uses.

OTHER WORDS FROM discreet

WORDS THAT MAY BE CONFUSED WITH discreet

discreet , discrete
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

DISCREET VS. DISCRETE

What’s the difference between discreet and discrete?

Discreet most commonly means tactful, prudent, or careful to avoid revealing things that may cause embarrassment, such as when communicating sensitive information, as in a discreet message or You can tell her, but be discreet about it. Discrete means separate or distinct, as in discrete concepts or discrete parts.

Less commonly, discreet can also mean unobtrusive—a modest necklace may be described as discreet. In all cases, the word discreet is used in situations in which an effort is made to avoid calling attention to someone or something. When you’re being discreet, you’re showing discretion.

Discrete, on the other hand, is typically used in technical, non-personal contexts. It has more specific meanings in the context of math and statistics.

Here’s a fun way to remember the difference: in discreet, the two e’s are right next to each other—the one e looks like it’s discreetly whispering something in the other’s ear. In discrete, the two e’s are kept separate by the t in the middle.

Here’s an example of discreet and discrete used correctly in a sentence.

Example: He mistakenly thought the two parts were discrete, but I told him that they are in fact connected—in a discreet way, of course.

Want to learn more? Read the full breakdown of the difference between discreet and discrete.

Quiz yourself on discreet vs. discrete!

Should discreet or discrete be used in the following sentence?

In my mind, these two topics are entirely _____—they don’t overlap at all.

How to use discreet in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for discreet

discreet
/ (dɪˈskriːt) /

adjective
careful to avoid social embarrassment or distress, esp by keeping confidences secret; tactful
unobtrusive

Derived forms of discreet

discreetly, adverbdiscreetness, noun

Word Origin for discreet

C14: from Old French discret, from Medieval Latin discrētus, from Latin discernere to discern

undefined discreet

Avoid confusion with discrete
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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