Discreet Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

This guide will help you learn the meaning of discreet through definitions, examples, the origin, synonyms, antonyms, and more!

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Even the most articulate, well-versed person can use a refresher on the definition of words they know and use. We get so comfortable with familiar words that defining them can be a challenge because words take on the inferred meaning we’ve given them over time. Learning the definition, origins, synonyms, antonyms, and examples of a word can further our understanding and help us use it more effectively.

What Is the Meaning of the Word Discreet?

According to the dictionary, discreet (us /dɪˈskrit / uk /dɪˈskriːt) is an adjective with a few definitions. To use discreet effectively, it is important to learn each of them. 

We can use discreet to describe judiciousness in a person’s conduct or speech. It typically indicates that a person can remain silent about a private topic or a topic of a delicate nature.

We can also use discreet to describe showing prudence, circumspection, or discretion. Prudence is another word for cautiousness.

As an adjective, discreet can describe something modestly unobtrusive or unostentatious. Classic pieces of clothing such as a black dress are often discreet pieces.

According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th edition, the adjective discreet is the root of the adverb discreetly and the noun discreetness.

The word discreet is often confused for its homophone discrete. Discrete is also an adjective, but discrete is used to describe something individually separate or distinct. 

These two words have similar etymologies. To better understand the word discreet, we can look at its origins.

What Is the Origin of Discreet?

Discreet as we use it today comes from Middle English, and it relates to the English discretion. Discretion has a few meanings, including individual choice or the latitude of choice within certain legal bounds. 

The word discretion is an Anglo-French word from the Old French discret. Discret was born from the Medieval Latin discrētus, which means “separate.” Discrētus was a past participle of discernere

The Latin discernere means discern, which is where we derive that word today. We can examine all the parts of discrētus to understand its meaning:

  • dis-: meaning “apart, away”
  • crē-: meaning “separate, distinguish” and is a variant stem of cernere
  • -tus: the past participle suffix

All of this can trace its early roots to the Late Latin discretio, which had the meaning as the definitions of the words like discreet, discrete, discern, and discretion. 

When Can We Use the Word Discreet?

Discreet is often used to describe when people act in a way to avoid social embarrassment or distress. For example, if someone chose to take the stairs instead of the elevator because they didn’t want to be seen because they were wearing mismatched shoes at work, they would be described as discreet.

People are also referred to as being discreet if they act in a way that protects their modesty or privacy. For example, lovers often meet in discreet locations to enjoy being together completely. Also, a person’s clothing might be discreet if it was designed to protect their modesty, such as a high-collared top or longer bottom pieces.

A discreet investor will be someone who is unwilling to take monetary risks. The investor may feel that a risky investment is not the best means of seeing an assured return on their investment. 

People who can be trusted not to disclose information that can lead to social embarrassment or impose on a person’s modesty can be described as discreet, too. For example, a politician needs a discreet aide in their staff that you can trust with inner circle information without fear that they will go to the press. 

What Are Synonyms of Discreet?

Synonyms help us learn a word’s definition by examining words with the same meaning that may be more familiar to us. Here are synonyms for the word discreet:

  • Attentive
  • Intelligent
  • Careful
  • Noncommittal
  • Considerate
  • Prudent
  • Reasonable
  • Watchful
  • Restrained
  • Thoughtful
  • Tactful
  • Calculating
  • Alert

What Are Antonyms of Discreet?

Antonyms are words that have the opposite meaning of a word. They help us explore what a definition does not mean, which can further our understanding of the word itself. Here are a few antonyms for the word discreet:

  • Careless
  • Foolish
  • Heedless
  • Inconsiderate
  • Idiotic
  • Indiscreet
  • Negligent
  • Rash
  • Stupid
  • Thoughtless
  • Undiscerning

What Are Examples of How To Use the Word Discreet?

Example sentences are a way to explore using a word in context. By learning how to use the word correctly, you can build on your understanding and gain confidence to use the word yourself when necessary. Here are a few example sentences that use the word discreet:

  • She was so discreet that they took little notice of her.
  • We made a discreet exit through the back door of the auditorium.
  • Let’s plan to meet in a discreet place to make the exchange.
  • With wise self-restraint, he remained discreet due to the delicate nature of the situation.
  • We have made several discreet inquiries about the gold necklace.
  • You should always be discreet when it comes to a student’s behavior which is why you should not make even vague posts on Facebook or Twitter about them.

The Last Word

Discreet is a great word to use when you want to be descriptive. Hopefully, now you’ll know when to use the word discreet and what it means when you hear or read it. You even know a bit about its background.


  1. DISCREET | Cambridge English Dictionary 
  2. Discreet | AH dictionary
  3. Discreet Definition & Meaning | Dictionary.com