dis·​crete di-ˈskrēt How to pronounce discrete (audio)
: constituting a separate entity : individually distinct
several discrete sections
: consisting of distinct or unconnected elements : noncontinuous
: taking on or having a finite or countably infinite number of values
discrete probabilities
a discrete random variable
discretely adverb
discreteness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for discrete

distinct, separate, discrete mean not being each and every one the same.

distinct indicates that something is distinguished by the mind or eye as being apart or different from others.

two distinct versions

separate often stresses lack of connection or a difference in identity between two things.

separate rooms

discrete strongly emphasizes individuality and lack of connection.

broke the job down into discrete stages

Examples of discrete in a Sentence

The idea is to disconnect the memory from the reactions to the memory, so that although the memory of the traumatic event remains, the everyday things that can trigger fear and panic, such as trash blowing across the interstate or a car backfiring … are restored to insignificance. The trauma thus becomes a discrete event, not a constant, self-replicating, encompassing condition. Sue Halpern, New Yorker, 19 May 2008
Eliminating stress entirely is not an option. If there are discrete sources of stress in your life—a relationship, a job, a health problem—you can and should take action to try to mitigate them. But my experience is that we all are subject to a kind of conservation law of stress. If stress recedes in one area, it seems to increase in another. Time, 17 Oct. 2005
The newer, digital phones broadcast their communications in discrete bursts of energy, whereas analog devices employ continuous signals. Janet Raloff, Science News, 12 Feb. 2000
several discrete sections to this vast medical complex, including a college of pharmacology and a research center
Recent Examples on the Web According to this model, breakups are not a discrete event but a series of stages. Isle McElroy, The Atlantic, 16 Feb. 2024 More than mere convenience, that a person could have an iPhone that could play music and make phone calls and do email and web surfing meant carrying a single device was far more accessible than carrying discrete devices. Steven Aquino, Forbes, 16 Feb. 2024 The flare is subtle, while the widening is gradual and discrete, creating just enough room for, well, boots. Ashley W. Simpson, Robb Report, 8 Feb. 2024 This is discrete and compact but also super durable. Kaitlyn McInnis, Travel + Leisure, 8 Feb. 2024 Qian was studying random geometry in the continuous rather than discrete context, with a special focus on SLE curves. Quanta Magazine, 7 Feb. 2024 There are as many as seven discrete questions that the court could consider before issuing a ruling. Andy Kroll, ProPublica, 6 Feb. 2024 The laptops with discrete GPUs easily (and predictably) outran the integrated graphics of the Acer, though in the ThinkPad's case that was only good enough for fourth place, with its AMD Radeon RX 6550M trailing the three Nvidia GeForce systems. Eric Grevstad, PCMAG, 1 Feb. 2024 The problem is that defining this point in discrete terms is virtually impossible. Yasmin Tayag, The Atlantic, 26 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'discrete.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English discrete, discret, discreet — more at discreet

Note: The adjective discrete is etymologically identical with discreet, of which it was originally a simple spelling variant. The consistent discrimination of the two senses by spelling, with discrete corresponding more closely to classical Latin in both form and meaning, dates from the 18th century.

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of discrete was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near discrete

Cite this Entry

“Discrete.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discrete. Accessed 27 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


dis·​crete dis-ˈkrēt How to pronounce discrete (audio)
: distinct sense 1, separate
several discrete sections
discretely adverb
discreteness noun

Medical Definition


dis·​crete dis-ˈkrēt, ˈdis-ˌ How to pronounce discrete (audio)
: characterized by distinct unconnected lesions
discrete smallpox
compare confluent sense 2

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