[ dih-skreet ]
See synonyms for: discreetdiscreetlydiscreetness on Thesaurus.com

  1. judicious in one's conduct or speech, especially with regard to respecting privacy or maintaining silence about something of a delicate nature; prudent; circumspect.

  2. showing prudence and circumspection; decorous: a discreet silence.

  1. modestly unobtrusive; unostentatious: a discreet, finely wrought gold necklace.

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,” from dis- dis-1 + cernere “to decide, separate, sift”; see discern

synonym study For discreet

1. See careful.

word story For 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.

Opposites for discreet

Other words from discreet

  • dis·creet·ly, adverb
  • dis·creet·ness, noun
  • o·ver·dis·creet, adjective
  • o·ver·dis·creet·ness, noun
  • qua·si-dis·creet, adjective

Words that may be confused with discreet

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use discreet in a sentence

  • Then another thing is caution—discreetness; not saying anything censorious or critical of other men, no matter what they do.

    April Hopes | 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
  • You may depend upon me to be discreetness itself, at least until after Dick has been safely shipped.

    The Snare | Rafael Sabatini
  • After all, you know, I think that discreetness is just talk.

    Moral | Ludwig Thoma

British Dictionary definitions for discreet


/ (dɪˈskriːt) /

  1. careful to avoid social embarrassment or distress, esp by keeping confidences secret; tactful

  2. unobtrusive

Origin of discreet

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

confusable For discreet

Avoid confusion with discrete

Derived forms of discreet

  • discreetly, adverb
  • discreetness, noun

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