[ dih-skreet ]
/ dɪˈskrit /
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See synonyms for: discrete / discretely / discreteness on Thesaurus.com


apart or detached from others; separate; distinct: six discrete parts.
consisting of or characterized by distinct or individual parts; discontinuous.
  1. (of a topology or topological space) having the property that every subset is an open set.
  2. defined only for an isolated set of points: a discrete variable.
  3. using only arithmetic and algebra; not involving calculus: discrete methods.



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“Was” is used for the indicative past tense of “to be,” and “were” is only used for the subjunctive past tense.

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Origin of discrete

1350–1400; Middle English <Latin discrētus separated; see discreet


dis·crete·ly, adverbdis·crete·ness, noun


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


What’s the difference between discrete and discreet?

Discrete means separate or distinct, as in discrete concepts or discrete parts. 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.

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 discrete and discreet 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 discrete and discreet.

Quiz yourself on discrete vs. discreet!

Should discrete or discreet be used in the following sentence?

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

Example sentences from the Web for discrete

British Dictionary definitions for discrete

/ (dɪsˈkriːt) /


separate or distinct in form or concept
consisting of distinct or separate parts
  1. (of a variable) having consecutive values that are not infinitesimally close, so that its analysis requires summation rather than integration
  2. (of a distribution) relating to a discrete variableCompare continuous (def. 4)

Derived forms of discrete

discretely, adverbdiscreteness, noun

Word Origin for discrete

C14: from Latin discrētus separated, set apart; see discreet

undefined discrete

Avoid confusion with discreet
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

Medical definitions for discrete

[ dĭ-skrēt ]


Not joined to or incorporated with another; separate; distinct.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.