Discreet and Discrete

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/ – careful to avoid social embarrassment or distress, especially by keeping confidences secret; tactful; prudent; unobtrusive.

Discreet on Dictionary.com

Discrete (adj.) [dih-skreet] /dɪsˈkriːt/ – apart or detached from others; separate or distinct in form or concept; discontinuous.

Discrete on Dictionary.com

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.

Example:

  • They tried to be discreet about their condition for some time.
  • The course is broken down into 10 discrete chapters.
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