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 formsdis·creet·ly, adverbdis·creet·ness, nouno·ver·dis·creet, adjectiveo·ver·dis·creet·ly, adverbo·ver·dis·creet·ness, nounqua·si-dis·creet, adjectivequa·si-dis·creet·ly, adverb
Can be confuseddiscreet discrete

Synonym study

1. See careful.

Antonyms for discreet

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for discreetness

Historical Examples of discreetness

  • Discreetness, therefore, was instructed to reign at the Abbey.

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


    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

British Dictionary definitions for discreetness



careful to avoid social embarrassment or distress, esp by keeping confidences secret; tactful
Derived Formsdiscreetly, adverbdiscreetness, noun

Word Origin for discreet

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


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

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