Discreet and Discrete form a set of Homophones. Homophones are words, or set of words, that have same pronunciation, but different meaning. While some homophones are not confusing, others are; and these two fall under the later.
Discreet means ‘presence of prudence in one’s behaviour or action’, and Discrete means ‘something distinct or unrelated’. Their nominalisation (nouning) gives Discreet – Discretion, and Discrete – Discreteness.
Discreet (adj.) [dih-skreet] /dɪˈskriːt/ –
Discrete (adj.) [dih-skreet] /dɪsˈkriːt/ – apart or detached from others; separate or distinct in form or concept; discontinuous.
Both words derive from the Latin word ‘discrētus’, meaning ‘separated’. For most of English history, Discreet was more frequently used. But these days Discrete is more frequently used, having seen a rise since the 1940s.
- They tried to be discreet about their condition for some time.
- The course is broken down into 10 discrete chapters.