de·ci·pher | \dē-ˈsī-fər \

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 \-f(ə-)rə-bəl \ adjective
decipherer \-fər-ər \ noun
decipherment \-fər-mənt \ 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 lack of critical thinking from journalists — as in, the same people who are supposedly exploring our country with a critical lens — to decipher between an actually sexist joke from one that mentions makeup products is mind-boggling., "The White House Correspondents’ Dinner Debacle Proves That We — & The Media —Haven’t Learned Anything," 30 Apr. 2018 For readers, this means that Shakespeare’s texts are less like a puzzle from the past to be solved by restoring their intention or their historical context, and more like a set of resources for deciphering the elusive present. Walt Hunter, The Atlantic, "When Hamlet Starts Showing Up in Federal Court," 13 June 2018 Experts, for example, recently made a remarkable discovery about pirates’ reading habits after deciphering paper fragments recovered from the wreck of Blackbeard’s ship. James Rogers, Fox News, "Pirate mystery solved: Human bone reveals its secrets," 25 May 2018 There are a couple of keys to deciphering the cards. Lee Judge Special To The Star, kansascity, "Outfield positioning? For the Royals, it’s in the cards | The Kansas City Star," 1 May 2018 The research on the effects of talcum powder can be confusing for people to decipher, especially when massive lawsuits like this one make headlines so frequently., "Johnson & Johnson Owes $4.69 Billion In Another Ovarian Cancer Case," 13 July 2018 The gripping series is full of riddles waiting to be deciphered, and phenomenal performances by Adams and Clarkson pull viewers closer to whatever danger lies beneath with each hour-long episode. Lorraine Ali,, "Review: 'Sharp Objects' pierces slowly but cuts deeply, and Amy Adams is phenomenal," 6 July 2018 And since the signal would come so close to the snap and be a play designed to exploit an immediate weakness in the defense, deciphering the offense’s signals may not matter. Andy Staples,, "Like It or Not, College Football Is Influencing the NFL," 12 July 2018 Despite his hard-to-decipher comments, West's appearance at Abloh's LV debut today proves the creative duo's bond is just as strong as ever. Lauren Alexis Fisher, Harper's BAZAAR, "Virgil Abloh and Kanye West Cried Together At The End of Abloh's First Louis Vuitton Men's Show," 21 June 2018

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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Statistics for decipher

Last Updated

4 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for decipher

The first known use of decipher was in 1545

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More Definitions for decipher



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 \
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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Comments on decipher

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


evasion of direct action or statement

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