Discrete or Discreet?

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Difference between "Discrete" and "Discreet"?

"Discrete" and "discreet" are easy to confuse because they sound identical (i.e., they are perfect homonyms).
  • Discrete. "Discrete" means "individually distinct." For example:
    • The ship has four discrete sections. correct tick
  • Discreet. "Discreet" means "inconspicuous" or "respecting secrecy." For example:
    • His service is very discreet. correct tick
    discrete or discreet?

    More about "Discrete"

    The adjective "discrete" means "individually distinct" or "separate" (i.e., something that is not part of something else).

    Example sentences with "discrete":
    • There is a rack on the bench that contains all the discrete electronic components. correct tick
    • Our club has three discrete membership categories. correct tick

    More about "Discreet"

    The adjective "discreet" means "respecting secrecy," "inconspicuous," or "diplomatic."

    Example sentences with "discreet":
    • You can trust my aide — he is very discreet. correct tick
    • The painting was won by a discreet telephone bidder. correct tick

    A Video Summary

    Here is a short video summarizing the difference between "discrete" and "discreet."

    Ways to Remember Discrete and Discreet

    With "discrete," the e's are separated. Let this remind you that "discrete" means "individually distinct."

    With "discreet" the two e's look like shifty eyes. Let this remind you that "discreet" means "secretive."

    Interesting Point

    • A word that looks like what it describes is called a logosglyph.)

    Discrete Variables

    In Mathematics, there is a type of variable called a "discrete variable." A discrete variable is one that cannot take on all values within its range. For example, in a survey, you might be asked to rate a holiday from 1 to 5. In this survey, you cannot choose 1.7 or 3.4. You can only choose 1,2,3,4 or 5. You cannot pick any values in between. The survey expects you to select a discrete variable.

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    See Also

    adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose? What are adjectives? List of easily confused words