The adjective discreet means prudently self-restrained or tactful. Discrete means distinct or separate.
- The movie focuses on the city's picturesque aspects while offering only discreet glimpses of its less pleasant realities.
- By law, small businesses can work with individual employees to develop discrete solutions.
- "A number of usage books define discreet as 'prudent,' 'judicious,' 'tactful,' or 'circumspect' and discrete as 'separate' or 'distinct,' with the implication that these are two completely different words which should not be confused. However, the history and spelling of discreet and discrete are more closely intertwined than is commonly realized. . . .
"Since the first half of the 17th century, the two spellings have been perceived as separate words with separate meanings. In that time confused spellings have undoubtedly occurred (hence the interest shown by usage book writers). The words are, after all, homophones and can be confused simply by transposing two adjacent letters."
(Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage, Merriam-Webster, 1994)
- "These two words, originally derived from the same Latin word, are pronounced identically and also share the idea of 'keeping apart.' But they have acquired quite different meanings. . . .
"Discreet is the more usual word and tends to be applied to people; discrete rather applies to ideas, categories, etc. and is found in more technical or impersonal contexts."
(Philip Gooden, Who's Whose: A No-Nonsense Guide to Easily Confused Words, Walker, 2004)
(a) Electricity is composed of _____ particles of equal size.
(b) The producer wasn’t _____ about the search, and names leaked to the press.