de·​ci·​pher dē-ˈsī-fər How to pronounce decipher (audio)
deciphered; deciphering; deciphers

transitive verb

: decode sense 1a
decipher a secret message
obsolete : depict
with her majesty's name deciphered in gold lettersJonathan Swift
: to make out the meaning of despite indistinctness or obscurity
trying to decipher her handwriting
: to interpret the meaning of
decipher the poem
decipherable adjective
decipherer noun
decipherment noun

Examples of decipher in a Sentence

I couldn't decipher his sloppy handwriting. we deciphered the hidden message to find out when we were supposed to meet
Recent Examples on the Web The Swedish businessman—who started out his career with Ericsson and worked his way up the tech giant to president before holding executive roles at the likes of Sony, Blackberry, and Logitech—has figured out a way of deciphering whether or not a job offer is going to be the right move for him. Orianna Rosa Royle, Fortune, 15 Sep. 2023 Indeed, its Chronicling America project consists of over 20 million scans of historical newspapers, some of them dating back to 17th century, along with digital versions of the text deciphered by optical character recognition software. The Physics Arxiv Blog, Discover Magazine, 12 Sep. 2023 Jurassic era avialans are a critical key to deciphering the evolutionary origin of the avialan body, and this elusive group is key to piecing together the origin of birds. Laura Baisas, Popular Science, 6 Sep. 2023 Birders were able to decipher a unique alphanumeric code on a flamingo that had been banded at Río Lagartos, a breeding colony in Mexico, Lorenz said. Julia Jacobo, ABC News, 5 Sep. 2023 For instance, in order to decipher clay tablet inscriptions or trace the evolution of living tongues, linguists must grapple with questions that extend beyond language. Lucy Tu, Scientific American, 24 Aug. 2023 It was supposed to wrap up this month, with all of the collected data and Day’s gut deciphering C.J. Stroud’s successor. Nathan Baird, cleveland, 22 Aug. 2023 His pages are often wordless and atmospheric, displaying a restrained ingenuity that encourages us to look closer and decipher. Kay Sohini, Washington Post, 15 Sep. 2023 Like other forms of crime, deciphering why violence against officers rises or falls is nuanced. Lyndsay Winkley, San Diego Union-Tribune, 10 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'decipher.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1545, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of decipher was in 1545

Dictionary Entries Near decipher

Cite this Entry

“Decipher.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition


de·​ci·​pher di-ˈsī-fər How to pronounce decipher (audio)
: to convert into understandable form
especially : decode
: to make out the meaning of despite lack of clearness
decipher sloppy handwriting
decipherable adjective
decipherment noun

More from Merriam-Webster on decipher

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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