Discrete and Discreet

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What is the difference between discrete and discreet?

Discrete means individually distinct. For example:
  • The ship has four discrete sections.
Discreet means inconspicuous. For example:
  • His service is very discreet.

Discrete and Discreet

The words discrete and discreet sound identical, but their meanings are different (i.e., they are homonyms).


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

  • There is a rack on the bench that contains all the discrete electronic components.
  • Our club has three discrete membership categories.


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

  • You can trust my aide — he is very discreet.
  • The painting was won by a discreet telephone bidder.
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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.

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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