Word of the Day Archive
Sunday February 15, 2004
discrete \dis-KREET\ , adjective:
1. Constituting a separate thing; distinct.
2. Consisting of distinct or unconnected parts.
3. (Mathematics) Defined for a finite or countable set of values; not continuous.
Niels Bohr, working with Rutherford in 1912, was intensely aware... of the need for a radically new approach. This he found in quantum theory, which postulated that electromagnetic energy -- light, radiation -- was not continuous but emitted or absorbed in discrete packets, or "quanta."
-- Oliver Sacks, "Everything in Its Place", New York Times Magazine, April 18, 1999
Llinas compared these studies to phrenology, the eighteenth-century pseudoscience that divided the brain into discrete chunks dedicated to specific functions.
-- John Horgan, The Undiscovered Mind
In contemporary usage, continents are understood to be large, continuous, discrete masses of land, ideally separated by expanses of water.
-- Martin W. Lewis and Karen E. Wigen, The Myth of Continents
High culture is less a set of discrete works of art than a phenomenon shaped by circles of conversation and criticism formed by its creators, distributors and consumers.
-- John Brewer, The Pleasures of the Imagination
Discrete is from Latin discretus, past participle of discernere, "to separate; to set apart," from dis-, "apart" + cernere, "to distinguish; to sift." It is not to be confused with discreet.