Difference Between Discreet and Discrete

Main Difference – Discreet vs Discrete

Discreet and Discrete are pronounced the same way and share similar spellings. Interestingly, they also share the same origin – they are both derived from Latin discretus.  However, these two words do not share similar meanings. Discreet means to be careful and cautious in speech whereas discrete means to be individually separate and distinct. This is the main difference between discreet and discrete.

Discreet – Meaning and Usage

Discreet is an adjective which refers to being careful, diplomatic and cautious in speech and behavior. Discreet mainly refers to being careful and prudent in one’s speech or actions, especially in order to keep something confidential or to avoid embarrassment. If a person can keep secrets and behave diplomatically, we can use the adjective discreet to describe his or her behavior.

The arrangement of the tables allows discreet conversations.

Anne’s uncle made some discreet inquires about her fiancé.

Most of their research work are carried out in a discreet and confidential manner.

He is discreet about clients and refused to divulge any information.

Everybody liked her discreet and diplomatic manner of handling things.

Discreet can also mean intentionally unobtrusive. For example,

A discreet cough alerted them of his presence.

We shared a discreet smile across the table.

As mentioned above, discreet comes from the Latin discretus meaning separate. But the meaning of the word has changed with the passage of time. The best way to make out the meaning of discreet is to keep in mind that discreet is always used with people or qualities of people.Difference Between Discreet and Discrete

Discrete – Meaning and Usage

Discrete is also an adjective derived from the same Latin discretus; this adjective has retained the meaning of the original. Therefore, the meaning of discrete is vastly different from that of discreet. Discrete means individually separated and distinct. Discrete is synonymous with adjectives such as individual, separated, distinct, detached, disjointed, etc. We say something is discrete when it is not attached to something else and is separate and distinct. The following sentences will help you to understand the meaning of this adjective better.

Words should be studied as a whole, not as discrete units.

These events were studied as isolated and discrete incidents.

The teacher asked him to write the discrete characteristics of this species.

Linguists believe that speech sounds shouldn’t be studied as discrete units.

When you are not sure of the difference between discreet and discrete, the easiest thing to do is to remember that discreet is always related to people; it describes a human quality. But discrete is often associated with objects.

Difference Between Discreet and Discrete

A machine is ultimately composed of discrete units.

Difference Between Discreet and Discrete


Discreet means being careful, diplomatic and cautious in speech and behavior.

Discrete means individually separated and distinct.


Discreet is mainly used to describe a person or quality.

Discrete is mainly used with objects.


Discreet is synonymous with tactful, circumspect, cautious, guarded, etc.

Discrete is synonymous with individual, separated, distinct, detached, disjointed, etc.Difference Between Discreet and Discrete - infographic

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