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[dih-skreet] /dɪˈskrit/
judicious in one's conduct or speech, especially with regard to respecting privacy or maintaining silence about something of a delicate nature; prudent; circumspect.
showing prudence and circumspection; decorous:
a discreet silence.
modestly unobtrusive; unostentatious:
a discreet, finely wrought gold necklace.
Origin of discreet
1325-75; Middle English discret < Anglo-French, Old French < Medieval Latin discrētus, Latin: separated (past participle of discernere; see discern), equivalent to dis- dis-1 + crē- separate, distinguish (variant stem of cernere) + -tus past participle suffix
Related forms
discreetly, adverb
discreetness, noun
overdiscreet, adjective
overdiscreetly, adverb
overdiscreetness, noun
quasi-discreet, adjective
quasi-discreetly, adverb
Can be confused
discreet, discrete.
1. See careful.
1. indiscreet. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for discreetly
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • With that quaint warning, he, too, made his bow and discreetly withdrew.

    Little Novels Wilkie Collins
  • I questioned when I should once have discreetly inclined the head and held my peace.

    The First Violin Jessie Fothergill
  • The figure is gracefully accentuated; all the sculptural lines are discreetly indicated without any exaggeration.

  • But Mathieu, keeping his promise to Constance, discreetly began his researches.

    Fruitfulness Emile Zola
  • It was known that Margaret of Parma had ordered the inquisitors and magistrates to conduct themselves "modestly and discreetly."

British Dictionary definitions for discreetly


careful to avoid social embarrassment or distress, esp by keeping confidences secret; tactful
Derived Forms
discreetly, adverb
discreetness, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Old French discret, from Medieval Latin discrētus, from Latin discernere to discern
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for discreetly



mid-14c., "morally discerning, prudent, circumspect," from Old French discret "discreet, sensible, intelligent, wise," from Latin discretus "separated, distinct," in Medieval Latin "discerning, careful," past participle of discernere "distinguish" (see discern). Meaning "separate, distinct" in English is late 14c.

Spellings discrete and nativized discreet co-existed until after c.1600, when discreet became the common word for "careful, prudent," and discrete was maintained in philosophy, medicine, music and other disciplines that remembered Latin and made effort to obey it. Related: Discreetly.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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