An article in one of Sydney’s Sunday papers anonymously interviews drivers for senior members of our governments, including examples of the things they see or hear in the course of their job. It explains that ministerial drivers are 

notoriously discrete

I would have expected them to stick together! 

Discrete and discreet are often confused. I was surprised to find that they share an etymology in Latin discrētus, separate (and are also related to discern). has a usage note (scroll down) which I won’t reproduce here.

Google Ngrams shows that discrete is most often used to describe time, event, Fourier (transform), values, set, points, units, particles, steps and components (all things), while discreet is used to describe man, person, silence, manner, men, persons, woman, use and management (all people or their behaviour).


2 thoughts on “indiscrete

  1. The usage page gives the obvious antonym for “discreet” (as in ), but none for “discrete.” The usual opposite of “discrete”, when applied to mathematical functions, is “continuous”, giving rise to the bumper sticker that proclaims “Mathematicians do it continuously but discretely” … exploiting the spelling duality.


  2. The opposite of discrete is concrete, but I can’t think of a context in which they are truly opposite eg data, evidence. The change of pronunciation is probably a clue to that, plus concrete is also a noun.

    The intruder left footprints in the freshly laid footpath/sidewalk below the window. The police have concrete evidence.


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