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

Definition of decipher

transitive verb

1 : decode sense 1a decipher a secret message
2 obsolete : depict with her majesty's name deciphered in gold letters— Jonathan Swift
3a : to make out the meaning of despite indistinctness or obscurity trying to decipher her handwriting
b : to interpret the meaning of decipher the poem

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Other Words from decipher

decipherable \ dē-​ˈsī-​f(ə-​)rə-​bəl How to pronounce decipherable (audio) \ adjective
decipherer \ dē-​ˈsī-​fər-​ər How to pronounce decipherer (audio) \ noun
decipherment \ dē-​ˈsī-​fər-​mənt How to pronounce decipherment (audio) \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for decipher



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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 Here, experts decipher the psychological reasons behind the most puzzling human behavior mysteries. Patti Greco,, "Why Do So Many People Like Horror Movies? Six Reasons We Love Being Scared," 13 Oct. 2020 Among those apparently confused was Bill Neidhardt, the mayor’s spokesman, who posted a video image on Twitter of Kermit the Frog futilely trying to decipher a map. Joseph Goldstein, New York Times, "How a Feud Between Cuomo and de Blasio Led to a Chaotic Virus Crackdown," 12 Oct. 2020 No one can agree on how best to use or decipher them, with even the Fed seemingly reticent to narrow it down; its economists recently reviewed a cocktail of more than 20 gauges. Matthew Boesler,, "Decoding Gauges of Inflation Expectations Is Fed’s Next Big Task," 10 Oct. 2020 Scientists have spent decades trying to decipher their songs and figure out why blue whales sing — and a new study may provide more clues. Rasha Aridi, Smithsonian Magazine, "Blue Whales Sing All Day When They Migrate and All Night When They Don’t," 8 Oct. 2020 Individuals themselves often have no idea they are being overpaid, in part because formulas for unemployment checks can be hard to decipher. Lauren Weber, WSJ, "States Overpaid Coronavirus Unemployment Claims, and They Want the Money Back," 5 Oct. 2020 The President had just mentioned Obama when a man in the crowd yelled something hard to decipher. Paige Williams, The New Yorker, "Inside the Lincoln Project’s War Room," 5 Oct. 2020 And there's just no way this show would make his first clue package that easy to decipher. Ariana Brockington,, "Masked Singer’s Serpent Is Probably A Hamilton Alum — Just Not The One You Think," 1 Oct. 2020 Your feedback comes in the form of a score, chart, and graph, which are easy to decipher. Richard Mann, Outdoor Life, "Sharpen Your Handgun Accuracy With The MantisX Shooting System," 22 Aug. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'decipher.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of decipher

1545, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for decipher

Time Traveler

The first known use of decipher was in 1545

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Statistics for decipher

Last Updated

19 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Decipher.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for decipher


How to pronounce decipher (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of decipher

: to find the meaning of (something that is difficult to read or understand)


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

Kids Definition of decipher

1 : to translate from secret or mysterious writing : decode
2 : to make out the meaning of something not clear I can't decipher her sloppy handwriting.

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