dis·​creet | \ di-ˈskrēt How to pronounce discreet (audio) \

Definition of discreet

1 : having or showing discernment or good judgment in conduct and especially in speech : prudent especially : capable of preserving prudent silence
2 : unpretentious, modest the warmth and discreet elegance of a civilized home— Joseph Wechsberg
3 : unobtrusive, unnoticeable followed at a discreet distance

Other Words from discreet

discreetly adverb
discreetness noun

Examples of discreet in a Sentence

For a couple who wanted a discreet bar between the study and the living room, Quogue, New York, architect Stuart Disston designed a small-scale bar that's hidden behind … doors under the stairs and takes advantage of plumbing in an adjacent powder room. — Sallie Brady, This Old House, January/February 2006 Without the knowledge of the exiled African National Congress leadership, he entered into a discreet dialogue with the South African government—which was reaching a similar conclusion. He later succeeded in convincing suspicious comrades of the need for a negotiated solution. — F. W. De Klerk, Time, 18 Apr. 2005 The New York Stock Exchange, meanwhile, has proposed a rule that would bar a stock-market analyst from talking to newspapers that fail to disclose the analyst's conflicts of interest. Even the C.E.O. of Goldman Sachs, one of Wall Street's most discreet firms, has chimed in … and has extorted his peers to restore "trust in our system." New Yorker, 9 Dec. 2002 Discreet disclaimers by the tourist board to the effect that "there is no evidence whatever that Prince Vlad Tepes (TSEH-pesh), or Vlad the Impaler, inhabited the castle" do nothing to discourage its notoriety as Dracula's reputed residence. Mythically, at least, this is in fact where he lived—and always will. — Erik Sandberg-Diment, New York Times, 21 June 1998 he was very discreet, only saying what was necessary with a discreet gesture, she signalled to her husband that she was ready to leave the party See More
Recent Examples on the Web Given the threat of violence, Black people within the South were more discreet, but their disgust at Confederate monuments was equally apparent. Eric Herschthal, The New Republic, 9 Aug. 2021 That past both demonstrates and assures that a more discreet American presence will be a provocation rather than a source of security. Priya Satia, Time, 27 Apr. 2021 Inside, the atmosphere is hushed and discreet, with the assurance that intuitive service attends your every whim. Claire Messud, Travel + Leisure, 23 Apr. 2022 This compact and discreet device is perfect for moms who don’t want the little ones in the house coming across their bedside arsenal. Anna Tingley, Variety, 8 Apr. 2022 But compared to the early-aughts versions, Jenner’s top is more sophisticated and discreet. Christian Allaire, Vogue, 21 Mar. 2022 Also notable is the service, which is warm and discreet rather than obsequious. Emma Reynolds, Robb Report, 8 Mar. 2022 While more discreet than the wing-wearing STO, the Tecnica still offers an abundance of the visual aggression that makes a Lamborghini a Lamborghini. Mike Duff, Car and Driver, 12 Apr. 2022 Though Alex first appears to be an independent, feminist-minded woman looking for a bit of discreet fun, she is soon revealed as a goblin desperate to trap a man and have his baby. New York Times, 30 Mar. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'discreet.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of discreet

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for discreet

Middle English discrete, discret, discreet "morally discerning, prudent, separate, distinct," borrowed from Anglo-French & Medieval Latin; Anglo-French discret, borrowed from Medieval Latin discrētus "separate, distinct, showing discernment, prudent," going back to Latin, "separated, differentiated," from past participle of discernere "to separate, distinguish" — more at discern

Note: See note at discrete.

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The first known use of discreet was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

16 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Discreet.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discreet. Accessed 28 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for discreet


dis·​creet | \ dis-ˈkrēt How to pronounce discreet (audio) \

Kids Definition of discreet

: careful not to attract attention or let out private information " … he must be discreet and say nothing about this visit of mine."— Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

Other Words from discreet

discreetly adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on discreet

Nglish: Translation of discreet for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of discreet for Arabic Speakers


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