“Discreet” vs “discrete”

Discrete is just an alternate spelling of discreet, you might think. And it’s understandable, what with all the Canadian, British and American spelling differences where an E is moved here, or a U inserted there.

However, in this case, discrete and discreet are two entirely different words. Here’s the difference between them:

Discrete means distinct or separate. (The organization is broken up into five discrete divisions.)

Discreet means prudent, tactful, or unobtrusive. (She discreetly informed her friend he had broccoli in his teeth.)

So, how do you tell the difference between discreet and discrete? One method that helps me to remember is: the Es in discrete are separate from each other, and the word discrete refers to things that are separated. Kind of silly, but it helps!


Posted in Spelling & Grammar.

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