Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Marked by, exercising, or showing prudence and wise self-restraint in speech and behavior; circumspect.
  • adj. Free from ostentation or pretension; modest.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Respectful of privacy or secrecy; quiet; diplomatic.
  • adj. Not drawing attention, anger or challenge; inconspicuous.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Possessed of discernment, especially in avoiding error or evil, and in the adaptation of means to ends; prudent; sagacious; judicious; not rash or heedless; cautious.
  • adj. Differing; distinct.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Distinct; distinguishable; discrete. See discrete, the usual spelling in this sense.
  • Wise or judicious in avoiding mistakes or faults, or in selecting the best means to accomplish a purpose; prudent; circumspect; cautious; wary; not rash.
  • Civil; polite.
  • Synonyms See list under cautious.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. unobtrusively perceptive and sympathetic
  • adj. marked by prudence or modesty and wise self-restraint
  • adj. heedful of potential consequences

Etymologies

Middle English, from Old French discret, from Medieval Latin discrētus, from Latin, past participle of discernere, to separate, discern; see discern.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Old French discret, from Latin discretus, from past participle of discernere. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • He's good at memorizing conversations, and some guys weren't so what you call discreet talking around him.

    White Jazz

  • Some areas for the ladies to consider: hair cut, color, makeup, shoes, purses, clothing, jewelry and certain discreet cultural factors.

    how to "pass" for a Mexican

  • Years afterward, when she and Sharpton had become close friends, he recalled her discreet observation that he had lost weight and stopped wearing track suits.

    Michael Henry Adams: Black Elegance!

  • The industry assumes that moviegoers will not accept gay actors playing straight leads, and agents and managers routinely insist that their gay clients remain discreet, which isn't easy in today's world of tabloid snoops.

    Gabriel Rotello: Sir Ian McKellen and 'Backlot Mountain'

  • For most of its 45 years, it's been known as a discreet retreat for the wild and famous: Courtney Love wrote a song about the place, Brad Pitt moved in when he and Jennifer Aniston split and, most famously, '60s rock icon Janis Joplin spent the last year of her life there.

    Sunset Marquis Hotel, Hollywood

  • Until May 18 www. hamburger-kunsthalle.de Hamburg art Now in its sixth year, the Bucerius Kunst Forum, next to Hamburg's Rathaus in the city's main square, specializes in what could be called discreet blockbusters -- subtly curated exhibitions of broad appeal, which bring together works from major and minor museums, as well as private collections.

    Vallotton's Spin on Modernity

  • Jervis, and Davies; certainly of the three Davies is the only one who can be called discreet, and he was the only one who had not been on scout or detached service of this character since he joined.

    Under Fire

  • Before I met this dear little Flora, I had a fair prospect of living and dying a respectable and respected old fogy, as you irreverent reformers call discreet people.

    A romance of the republic

  • Whereas other enclosures have hinges simply bolted onto the side walls, the Alucase hinges are described as discreet extensions of the main profile of the case, achieving a modern and professional look.

    Electronicstalk - electronics industry news

  • Obama officials are under pressure from what European diplomats in Washington describe as a discreet but outspoken campaign of "quiet fury" from America's closest allies.

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