Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Little Diamond’s Peeve

Little Diamond, my niece living and working in Beirut, has a pet peeve, which I remembered as I was writing a comment on an earlier piece.

“I HATE it when people write ‘discrete’ when they mean ‘discreet!” she exclaimed, inflamed.

OOOps. I don’t know if I do it of not. Now, I look it up every time so I won’t inflame Little Diamond.

dis·creet (dĭ-skrēt’)
Marked by, exercising, or showing prudence and wise self-restraint in speech and behavior; circumspect.
Free from ostentation or pretension; modest.
[Middle English, from Old French discret, from Medieval Latin discrētus, from Latin, past participle of discernere, to separate, discern.

dis·crete (dĭ-skrēt’)
Constituting a separate thing. See synonyms at distinct.
Consisting of unconnected distinct parts.
Mathematics. Defined for a finite or countable set of values; not continuous.
[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin discrētus, past participle of discernere, to separate.

Here is where it get’s tricky:

dis·cre·tion (dĭ-skrĕsh’ən)
The quality of being discreet; circumspection. See synonyms at prudence.
Ability or power to decide responsibly.
Freedom to act or judge on one’s own: All the decisions were left to our discretion.

The first is used to describe behavior. The second is used to describe the state of being separate. They have identical pronunciation, thank God. You can see they are from the same root.

The third is a type of behavior made by a person having the freedom to choose separately. I am guessing it is more related to discrete than to discreet, but usually when you behave with discretion, you behave discreetly.

Yeh, we are word-nerds.

June 15, 2007 - Posted by | Blogging, Blogroll, Communication, Cultural, Family Issues, Language, Words


  1. oooooooh. I had never looked so far into the etymology of discrete and discreet. They both come from the same Latin verb, with one descending from the “to discern” side and one from the “to separate” side.

    fascinating 🙂

    Comment by adiamondinsunlight | June 15, 2007 | Reply

  2. Safe travels, Little Diamond

    Comment by intlxpatr | June 15, 2007 | Reply

  3. That’s definitely something I needed to learn I make that mistake a lot it’s the first time I hear about this!!!

    Thanks Intlxpatr!

    Comment by 1001 Kuwaiti Nights | June 20, 2007 | Reply

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