Discretely or Discreetly – What’s The Difference

Discretely or Discreetly

Sometimes, English can be a tricky language, full of words that sound the same but mean different things. Two such words are “discretely” and “discreetly.” They may sound similar, but they have entirely different meanings. Let’s dive into each word to understand what they mean and how to use them correctly.

What Does “Discretely” Mean?

The word “discretely” is all about being separate or distinct. Imagine you have a box of crayons. If you spread them out so each crayon is by itself, you have placed them “discretely”. Each crayon is separate from the others. So, when you think of “discretely”, think of things that are apart from each other and not connected.

For example:

  • The students stood discretely, each one at a different corner of the room.
  • The candies were sorted discretely by color, with each color in its own container.
  • He discretely placed the documents in separate folders for each client.

What Does “Discreetly” Mean?

Now, let’s talk about “discreetly“. This word is about being careful or cautious, especially in sensitive situations. If you have a secret and you tell it quietly to a friend so no one else hears, you are being “discreet”. Being “discreet” means you are good at keeping secrets or not drawing attention.

For example:

  • She discreetly passed a note to her friend in class so the teacher wouldn’t see.
  • She discreetly whispered the answer to her friend during the test.
  • The detective discreetly followed the suspect, making sure not to attract attention.

Why The Confusion?

The confusion between “discretely” and “discreetly” mainly comes from how similar they sound. But remembering their meanings can help keep them straight. Think of “discretely” as “separate” or “apart”, and “discreetly” as “quietly” or “carefully”.

How to Remember the Difference

A simple trick to remember the difference is to look at the “e” and “t” in each word. In “discrete,” the “e” and “t” are separated by another “e,” just like discrete things are separated. In “discreet,” the “e” and “t” are close together, hinting at the closeness or privacy implied by doing something discreetly.

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