I know this question has been asked already by someone else, but I can't comment yet, so I need to ask this for myself. I picked up a few different explanations for what the difference is:

  1. You discover something that is brand new and you uncover something that was forgotten
  2. You discover an object and you uncover an idea
  3. You discover something that was previously unknown or unheard of and you uncover something that was deliberately hidden or covered up

Which one is correct and which word should I use in my case?

The thing being discovered/uncovered in my case is a letter hidden inside the subject's locker by another person and discovered/uncovered by the subject.

  • Both words literally mean 'take the cover off', but discover has had the figurative meaning of find or find out for a very long time. Uncover is more often used in its literal sense, though it can mean 'expose a fact that has been deliberately hidden'. In your sentence, if the person found the letter unexpectedly they discovered it. Apr 4, 2022 at 7:56

3 Answers 3


I think that the first-listed (hence considered prototypical) (not necessarily the most usual, M-W being a historical dictionary) sense of 'uncover' given by Merriam-Webster is probably usually the most helpful:

uncover [transitive verb]

1: to make known: bring to light: disclose; reveal

  • uncover the truth

You would choose 'find' rather than 'bring to light' / 'disclose' for something as everyday as a letter (though the possible intrigue it may expose may warrant 'uncovering'), so discover here.

  • 1
    When I say "uncover" aloud, I get the impression that a cover is being pulled off of something, at least when I use it with an object. Discover sounds better and makes a lot more sense to me. "Instead of finding the usual scrap of bad art pinned to the inside of his locker, today he discovered something almost equally upsetting— a ransom note."
    – Rosy
    Apr 4, 2022 at 11:43

Discover is the better word to use. The word 'discover' is more commonly used when finding an object.

The sentence could be something along the lines of:

Character A opens their locker to discover a note / letter.

Alternatively, if you want to use the word 'uncover', you could phrase it like this:

After cleaning out their locker, character A uncovered (discovered could also be used here) a hidden note under a school textbook.


The correct word, in my opinion, would be discovered.

Subject: let's call him Columbus Another person: let's call him Sneaky Simon (cuz chipmunks -Alvin, Theodore, & Simon - like to bury and hoard things)

Columbus discovered the letter in his locker that was stashed there by Sneaky Simon.

While Sneaky Simon had knowledge of the letter and its whereabouts, Columbus was unaware of its existence and, therefore, when he opened his locker, he made a discovery. He found something new that he had never laid eyes on before. However, had Sneaky Simon opened the locker to guide Columbus to the letter (because Columbus wasn't paying attention and shut his locker without seeing it), it would be more appropriate to use "uncover."

Sneaky Simon opened Columbus' locker uncovering the letter and shocking Columbus with its existence in the process.


Sneaky Simon opened Columbus' locker and uncovered the letter he (Sneaky Simon) stashed there and had wanted Columbus to discover.

BTW, I kinda wanna know what's in this mysterious letter lol


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