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verb in·ter·pret \in-ˈtər-prət, -pət\

Simple Definition of interpret

  • : to explain the meaning of (something)

  • : to understand (something) in a specified way

  • : to perform (something, such as a song or a role) in a way that shows your own thoughts and feelings about it

Full Definition of interpret

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 :  to explain or tell the meaning of :  present in understandable terms <interpret dreams> <needed help interpreting the results>

  3. 2 :  to conceive in the light of individual belief, judgment, or circumstance :  construe <interpret a contract>

  4. 3 :  to represent by means of art :  bring to realization by performance or direction <interprets a role>

  5. intransitive verb
  6. :  to act as an interpreter between speakers of different languages

in·ter·pret·abil·i·ty play \-ˌtər-prə-tə-ˈbi-lə-tē, -pə-tə-\ noun
in·ter·pret·able play \-ˈtər-prə-tə-bəl, -pə-tə-\ adjective

Examples of interpret

  1. We need someone to interpret these results for us.

  2. How should we interpret the law?

  3. I interpreted his behavior to mean that he disliked me.

  4. Every actor interprets the role of Hamlet a little differently.

Origin of interpret

Middle English, from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French interpreter, from Latin interpretari, from interpret-, interpres agent, negotiator, interpreter

First Known Use: 14th century

Synonym Discussion of interpret

explain, expound, explicate, elucidate, interpret mean to make something clear or understandable. explain implies a making plain or intelligible what is not immediately obvious or entirely known <explain the rules>. expound implies a careful often elaborate explanation <expounding a scientific theory>. explicate adds the idea of a developed or detailed analysis <explicate a poem>. elucidate stresses the throwing of light upon as by offering details or motives previously unclear or only implicit <elucidate an obscure passage>. interpret adds to explain the need for imagination or sympathy or special knowledge in dealing with something <interpreting a work of art>.

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up interpret? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


February 8, 2016

to clear from accusation or blame

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