What is the difference? Discreet vs Discrete


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Learn the difference between discreet and discrete! Our latest 5 Minute Grammar Lesson explains the key differences between these two commonly confused words. Learn how to use them correctly in sentences and avoid any confusion in your writing.

discreet vs discrete

This 5 Minute Grammar lesson is dedicated to my friend, Jessica, who asked me to add it to the list. Honestly, I had to look up these two words, because I didn’t know how to explain the difference. So here goes:

Two more words that people often confuse are “discreet” and “discrete.” They sound similar and have almost identical spellings, but their meanings are quite different. In this blog post, we will explore the differences between “discreet” and “discrete” and how to use them correctly in sentences.

What is the difference? Discreet vs Discrete

Let’s start with “discreet.”

This word is an adjective that describes someone or something that is careful, cautious, and knows how to keep secrets. For example, a discreet person might not share personal information about themselves with others, or they might speak in a low voice so as not to be overheard by others.

In business, a discreet approach might involve handling sensitive information in a confidential manner to avoid any leaks or unauthorized access.

DISCREET, can also mean prudent, circumspect, sneaky-ish.

So, if you’re trying to ask a person to be careful not to spoil a surprise, use the word DISCREET. A discreet affair, a discreet area for a nursing mother, a discreet internet cafe.

On the other hand, we have “discrete.”

Discrete is an adjective that means separate or distinct. It refers to individual things that are separate from one another and not connected. For instance, a discrete set of numbers is a set of numbers that is distinct from other sets of numbers.

In science and mathematics, “discrete” is often used to describe quantities or data points that can only take on specific values, rather than being continuous.

When you’re trying to point out differences in particular groups, use DISCRETE. Discrete components, discrete food groups, discrete values.

How to use “discreet” vs “discrete” correctly in sentences:

  • He was very discreet about his private life and never talked about it in public.
  • The company had a discreet approach to handling sensitive customer data.
  • The experiment involved measuring the temperature at discrete intervals of five minutes.
  • The artist used discrete colors to create a striking contrast in her painting.

So, while “discreet” and “discrete” may sound similar, their meanings are quite distinct. Knowing the difference between these two words can help you to use them correctly in sentences and avoid any confusion in your writing.

How to Remember the Difference Between Discrete & Discreet

One way to remember the difference is to think about how the T in Discrete separates the two Es, into separate parts. That’s a way to remember that discrete means separate.

Discreet or Discrete ~ 5 minute grammar lesson

And when all else fails, google is really smart! 🙂

And that’s your 5 Minute Grammar lesson. Enjoy the weekend. Do you have topic you’d like me to cover? Please share.

More grammar posts you may like:

Then or Than?

Your welcome or You’re Welcome

How to make the word PEOPLE possessive

Bias or Biased?

Do to or Due to?

Less or Fewer?

If you’re looking for helpful grammar resources, here are my top picks:

Strunk & White Elements of Style

The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation 

Eats, Shoots, and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation 

The Grammar Girl’s Quick & Dirty Tips for Better Writing

About Michelle Marine

Michelle Marine is the author of How to Raise Chickens for Meat, a long-time green-living enthusiast, and rural Iowa mom of four. She empowers families to grow and eat seasonal, local foods; to reduce their ecological footprint; and to come together through impactful travel.

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  1. I recently read a book – published by a major publishing house, written by a genuine best-selling author – in which the word “discrete” was used TWICE where, from context, the writer clearly meant “discreet”. I assume that an editor and a copy editor both had their hands on this before publication, so I can’t be sure where the error originated. But really. The editor and the copy editor, at the very least, should know the difference.

    I learned these words back in junior high school.

  2. I LOVE this post! I’m a word nerd by nature and in my main occupation, so I’m smiling right now. I’m not sure how I found your blog, but following your likes will provide enjoyable sidetracks for a long time as we have many interests in common. I have much to learn.

  3. I have landed on your blog from someone else’s blog, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed looking around. I have many shared thoughts, and I absolutely love this little part of the blog. It is nice to see another wordsmith. 🙂 I am an editor for court reporters, and I am always looking these two words up to make sure that I have the correct spelling. The words can come up in the same transcript both ways often. I love the tip for remembering where the “T” is. Thank you!