Discreet or discrete?

These two words sound exactly the same but have different meanings.

Discreet is an adjective, meaning careful or reserved in one’s speech or actions, often to avoid offending someone or to gain an advantage:

  • He is very discreet.
  • I will make some discreet enquiries for you.

Discrete is an adjective meaning separate, in distinct parts:

  • There are five discrete categories.
  • The units in digital recordings are discrete.

By Josef Essberger for EnglishClub April 2008
Josef started teaching English as a foreign language in 1991 and founded EnglishClub for learners and teachers in 1997.


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