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Discreet vs. Discrete – Pick the Correct Word

Discreet vs. Discrete – Pick the Correct Word

While you may be more familiar with one of these words than the other, the second is not a misspelling. Discreet and discrete are both perfectly spelled English words with the same pronunciation, yet different meanings.

Short and Sweet: Discreet vs. Discrete

Discreet and discrete are both adjectives, and they are unrelated to each another.

  • Discreet is related to discretion. It means subtle, or with good judgement.
  • Discrete means distinct, individual, or separate.

These definitions are cursory, so continue reading for more in-depth discussions of the meanings of these words. I have provided some example sentences to demonstrate how to use discreet or discrete, as well as a trick for remembering which one is which!

What Does Discreet Mean?

Meaning of Discreet: Discreet is an adjective that typically means prudent. If someone is showing discretion, that means he or she is using good judgement.

  • I trust you to be discreet with this sensitive information.
  • These rules are really more like guidelines, so use your discretion.

Discreet also has connotations of modesty and/or subtlety. If something is done discreetly, it is done without calling attention to it.

  • Adult and private items often come in discreet packaging to avoid embarrassing the customers. > modest, subtle
  • Students who arrive late to class try to sit down as discreetly as possible, but the whole class turns around to look at them anyway. > subtle, unnoticeable

What Does Discrete Mean?

Meaning of Discrete: Discrete, while sounding identical to discreet, has a completely different meaning. Something that is discrete is noncontinuous or unconnected, or it can be made up of separate individual components. “Distinct” and “individual” are good synonyms for discrete.

  • Rather than keeping a theme, the artist filled her gallery with discreet
  • A series of discreet signs posted in a row can sometimes draw more attention than a single, large sign.

Discrete is often used in discussions about how isolated events or variables affect each other, and whether or not they create a narrative. Discreet is also frequently used to refer to individual sections, emphasizing their separateness.

  • The dock is made of 10 discrete sections.

Discrete vs. Discreet: Write 101 Memory Trick

Remembering how to spell discrete or discreet can be tricky since their spellings are so similar.

  • Discrete refers to items that are separate. The two “E”s in discrete are separated by the “T,” rather than appearing together.
  • Discreet is spelled with a double “E,” like in the word “street.” Someone who is able to be discreet, or use good judgment, has street smarts.

Recap: When to Use Discreet and Discrete

While both of these words sound the same, their meanings are distinct and never overlap.

  • Use discreet to describe something that is subtle or in good taste.
  • Use discrete to mean individual or unconnected.


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