Mathematics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people studying math at any level and professionals in related fields. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I understand why you would refer to mathematics which concerns itself with all of the numbers on the number line as 'continuous' but why would you refer to countable or finite mathematics as 'discrete'? Like it's the mathematics no one talks about? Where does this labeling come from?

share|cite|improve this question
"Discrete" $\neq$ "discreet"! – user64687 Jan 19 '14 at 17:04
@Asal: Some things are both! – Asaf Karagila Jan 19 '14 at 17:05
@AsafKaragila Oh wow that made my day. – Paze Jan 19 '14 at 17:06
A little googling reveals that both words come from latin discretus meaning separate. – Karolis Juodelė Jan 19 '14 at 17:09
The Pomona College math club used to have T-shirts that said "Mathematicians do it discretely and continuously"... – Nate Eldredge Jan 19 '14 at 17:28

As the online dictionary at says, "discrete" means anything constituting a separate entity or anything consisting of distinct or unconnected elements.

share|cite|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.