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.