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Pedants' corner

discrete and discreet

(29 Posts)
TriciaF Tue 28-Mar-17 17:39:53

Who knows the difference? I didn't until I looked it up.

Luckygirl Tue 28-Mar-17 17:54:37

Yes - discrete means specific and discreet means not blabbing your mouth off!

Jayanna9040 Tue 28-Mar-17 18:01:25

I know the difference too. But I still got it wrong the other day blush

JackyB Tue 28-Mar-17 18:43:11

I've looked it up and forgotten it again. Several times. So probably I've misused it at some point. Thanks for the reminder!

Riverwalk Tue 28-Mar-17 18:46:40

I think we all know what discreet means, but to me as a nurse, discrete means made of separate parts.

br0adwater Wed 29-Mar-17 10:14:17

I remember it by thinking of the e's in discrete as being separate - they are discrete from each other.

Elegran Wed 29-Mar-17 10:25:07

Discreet is not inviting the world to watch you using Veet on your bikini line (or doing or saying anyhing else that should be private).

Discrete is the opposite of concrete - concrete is all stuck together, discrete is all separate bits.

Rinouchka Wed 29-Mar-17 11:24:11

Love your definitions/examples, Elegran! grin

Elegran Wed 29-Mar-17 11:59:13

Those are the kind of examples that stick in the mind and are there when you need them, Rinouchka

thatbags Wed 29-Mar-17 12:18:17


There when you need them, like every time you use either word! I'll be much quicker deciding which is which now, elegran!

Elegran Wed 29-Mar-17 21:54:05

grin The relevant noun is discretion. That should be easy enough to spell correctly, as when spoken it has a short E.

Discretion has an interesting amalgam of meanings - the quality possessed by someone discreet versus the power to "use your discretion" and choose which of various (separate) possibilities to opt for.

Jalima Wed 29-Mar-17 22:32:01

Yes, discrete was a word I used at work to denote separate parts about which I had to be discreet grin

Some good ways of remembering the difference on here
*Broadwater's is an easy method to use.

Deedaa Thu 30-Mar-17 20:14:02

blushI only became aware of the difference recently much to the horror of DD (PhD biochemist) who apparently works with discrete stuff all the time.blush

TriciaF Fri 31-Mar-17 12:01:22

Elegran - discretion as the relevant noun - that confuses me even more!
"The root of both “discreet” and “discrete” is the Latin verb “discernere,” meaning “to separate, distinguish,” from “dis,” apart, plus “cernere,” to separate. (“Discernere” is also the root of our modern English word “discern.”)
"discretion. If you have the freedom to decide something on your own, the decision is left to your discretion. You're in charge. Discretion traces back to the Latin verb discernere "to separate, to discern" from the prefix dis- "off, away" plus cernere "separate, sift."
So both words come from the same root!

Elegran Fri 31-Mar-17 12:35:16

The meanings parted company at some time, as words do.

"Nice" used to mean discerning, separating minute detail, fussy. It has now come to mean pleasant - you can see the connection with discerning and distinguishing what is - umm - nice!

Elegran Fri 31-Mar-17 12:37:21

And being discreet is discerning and separating out what is for public revelation and what for private discussion.

pollyperkins Sat 01-Apr-17 09:42:05

Yes I knew the difference. Lots of people get affect/effect wrong, also practice/practise

ajanela Sat 01-Apr-17 09:49:22

Well I never knew there were 2 words. We live and learn thanks to gransnet?

grandMattie Sat 01-Apr-17 09:57:43

Just because they sound the same, it doesn't mean that they mean the same thing!
I have know for a long time, but was furious when I described a line as being "discrete" on a plate for a review, and some "clever-clogs" corrected my English to say it was "discreet" - NO it wasn't! grin

pollyperkins Sat 01-Apr-17 10:05:18

I feel your pain grandmattie!!

Sheilasue Sat 01-Apr-17 10:43:05

Well I am going to be honest and say I have never heard of that word before. That's what I love key about gransnet I am learning all the time.

allule Sat 01-Apr-17 10:49:13

Someone our local fb page has just asked for someone to recover two bedroom chairs.
I was tempted to ask how she had managed to lose them, but thought better of it smile

grandMattie Sat 01-Apr-17 11:36:49

Disinterested and uninterested, anyone? Ha ha ha.

Peaseblossom Sat 01-Apr-17 11:56:43

allule maybe they were unwell. I hope they are recovered now! grin

grammargran Sat 01-Apr-17 12:13:09

Me! That's why I'm grammargran and the bane of my grandchildren!