The Meaning of Discreet: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of discreet? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word discreet, including its definition, usage, word origin, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word discreet mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language as well as American Heritage and Collins English Dictionary, the word discreet is an adjective that refers to someone or something that has or shows discernment or good judgment in speech or conduct. It can also refer to someone or something that is unpretentious, modest, unnoticeable, or unobtrusive. Discreet is two syllables – dis-creet. The pronunciation of discreet is dɪˈskrit. The middle of the word makes an “ee” sound. Try using this word of the day in a sentence today!

Many different languages also contain words that mean discreet. You may notice when looking at this list of translations of discreet from Word Sense that some of these translations look and sound similar to the word discreet. These are called cognates, which are often formed when two words have the same root or language of origin.

  •  Portuguese: discreto‎
  •  Catalan: discret‎
  •  Bulgarian: дискретен‎, тактичен‎
  •  Swedish: diskret‎
  •  Russian: такти́чный‎
  •  Hungarian: diszkrét‎, tapintatos‎, titoktartó‎
  •  Polish: dyskretny‎
  •  Dutch: discreet‎
  •  German: diskret‎
  •  Greek: διακριτική‎ (fem.), διακριτικός‎ (masc.)
  •  Finnish: hienotunteinen‎, hienovarainen‎, tahdikas‎, diskreetti‎
  •  French: discret‎
  •  Danish: diskret‎
  •  Romanian: discret‎
  •  Spanish: discreto‎

What are synonyms and antonyms of discreet?

There are numerous different English words that a person could choose to use in place of the word discreet. These are called synonyms, which are words that have the same definition as a given word. Learning synonyms is a great way to expand your English language vocabulary and avoid repeating yourself. This list of synonyms for discreet is provided by Thesaurus

  •  intelligent
  •  observant
  •  wary
  •  like a clam
  •  noncommittal
  •  reserved
  •  gingerly
  •  thoughtful
  •  chary
  •  prudent
  •  judicious
  •  guarded
  •  worldly-wise
  •  sagacious
  •  reasonable
  •  wise
  •  diplomatic
  •  safe
  •  civil
  •  politic
  •  circumspect
  •  restrained
  •  conservative
  •  cautious
  •  considerate
  •  alert
  •  attentive
  •  attentive
  •  discerning
  •  cagey
  •  discriminating
  •  vigilant
  •  watchful
  •  sensible
  •  controlled
  •  temperate
  •  on lookout
  •  moderate
  •  tactful
  •  precautious
  •  heedful
  •  calculating
  •  awake
  •  careful
  •  having foresight
  •  strategic
  •  not rash

There are also plenty of words that mean the opposite of discreet. These opposite words are called antonyms. Learning antonyms is another quick and easy way to expand your vocabulary and knowledge of the English language. This list of antonyms of discreet is also provided by Thesaurus.

  •  perfunctory
  •  imprudent
  •  absent-minded
  •  forgetful
  •  offhand
  •  uncircumspect
  •  loose
  •  lax
  •  nonchalant
  •  incautious
  •  improvident
  •  hasty
  •  negligent
  •  injudicious
  •  oblivious
  •  casual
  •  mindless
  •  regardless
  •  inadvertent
  •  sloppy
  •  abstracted
  •  unguarded
  •  cursory
  •  thoughtless
  •  slipshod
  •  wasteful
  •  disregardful
  •  careless
  •  reckless
  •  irresponsible
  •  unobservant
  •  unheeding
  •  unreflective
  •  indifferent
  •  unconcerned
  •  heedless
  •  indolent
  •  lackadaisical
  •  inaccurate
  •  unmindful
  •  pococurante
  •  remiss
  •  napping
  •  indiscreet
  •  inconsiderate
  •  unthinking

How can discreet be used in a sentence?

The word discreet (adj.) can be used in many different sentences in the English language. Using words in a sentence is a great way to memorize their definitions. You can also try making flashcards or quizzes for yourself to test your knowledge. Try using this word of the day in a sentence today! Below are several examples of discreet.

The discreet young nobleman fell in love with a peasant girl. The lovers attempted to make a discreet exit out her back door with little notice, but the right angles of the space meant every nosy neighbor saw them exit.

The woman wore a discreet gold necklace after her divorce to avoid social embarrassment and distress. Everyone knew her evil ex-husband had taken all of her assets in the divorce, but she tried to maintain her facade of wealth.

The discerning editor at the Washington Post was shocked by the discreet form of racism that was present in the seemingly opaque education system. Non-white student’s behavior was judged far more harshly, and they were expected to show wise self-restraint at an earlier age.

The politician in Australia would not have succeeded in his campaign without the help of a discreet aide who told him what to say and do at every moment. He folded under presenteeism pressure at the towering exhibit installation, but the aide came to the rescue and fed him his lines.

The girl took her confidant to a discreet place, up high in the library tower at Princeton University. Here, they shared their deepest secrets and smelled the old books in the ripple of air from the small window.

The two camp counselors did their best to be discreet about their relationship, but their campers were constantly asking them if they were together. They denied it for about half of the summer, but when a group of campers caught them kissing in the back room of the mess hall, they were forced to admit it.

What is the origin of the word discreet?

According to Etymonline, the word discreet has been used since the late 14th century Middle English. This word comes from the Old French discret, from the Latin discretus and Medieval Latin discrētus. This is the past participle of discernere. The Latin discernere means to separate or divide, from the prefix dis meaning off or away and the root cernere meaning to distinguish or separate. Discreet was originally spelled both discreet and discrete, but after 1600 discreet became more common for careful and prudent while discrete was used in philosophy, medicine, mathematics, and music. One can add the suffixes ly and tion to create the related words discreetly (adv.) and discretion (n.)

Overall, the word discreet describes someone or something who is modest, unnoticeable, or who has good judgment or conduct. In modern meanings, someone who is discreet values or has modesty, privacy, prudence, and a delicate nature about sensitive information. 

Sources:

  1. discreet: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  2. DISCREET Synonyms: 61 Synonyms & Antonyms for DISCREET | Thesaurus 
  3. CARELESS Synonyms: 80 Synonyms & Antonyms for CARELESS | Thesaurus 
  4. discreet | Origin and meaning of discreet | Online Etymology Dictionary 
  5. Discreet | Definition of Discreet | Merriam-Webster Discreet