de·​code | \ (ˌ)dē-ˈkōd How to pronounce decode (audio) \
decoded; decoding; decodes

Definition of decode

transitive verb

1a : to convert (something, such as a coded message) into intelligible form
b : to recognize and interpret (an electronic signal)
b : to discover the underlying meaning of decode the play's imagery

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Synonyms & Antonyms for decode



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Did You Know?

To decode is to take out of code and put into understandable language. (Its opposite is encode, "to put into coded form".) But dreams may sometimes also be decoded; psychologists often try to decode the images of their patients' dreams so as to understand the emotions behind them. And readers must often decode what a novel or story or poem is telling them, which may require two or three readings. Decipher is often a synonym, though we now use it when talking about reading difficult handwriting.

Examples of decode in a Sentence

Readers can easily decode the novel's imagery. I'm trying to decode the expression on her face. The box decodes the digital signal for your CD player.
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Recent Examples on the Web Imagine young children learning the native language from an adult who is fluent in ASL trying to decode what is being said. Carolyn Said,, "Bay Area deaf, hard of hearing say face masks cut off communication," 4 June 2020 The group attempts to decode anonymous comments on dark web message boards such as 4chan and 8chan. Mckenzie Sadeghi, USA TODAY, "Fact check: Ellen, Oprah, many others are not on house arrest for child sex trafficking," 18 Mar. 2020 Adam Rogers deftly decodes the latest study on hydroxychloroquine. Steven Levy, Wired, "Mark Zuckerberg Is an Arbiter of Truth—Whether He Likes It or Not," 5 June 2020 The problem is that the way the video images are digitally encoded and decoded, altered and adjusted, patched and synthesized introduces all kinds of artifacts: blocking, freezing, blurring, jerkiness and out-of-sync audio. Kate Murphy, New York Times, "Frequently Asked Questions and Advice," 11 Apr. 2020 The Ukrainian government has repeatedly called on Tehran to release the plane’s flight recorders to a country that has the technology to decode their data. Golnar Motevalli,, "A Mother’s Pain Bares the Rifts Tearing Iran Apart," 5 May 2020 Some writing is harder to decode and predict and is more likely to trigger regressions. Malia Wollan, New York Times, "How to Read Faster," 17 Mar. 2020 The Astros trained a camera feed on home plate, zoomed in on the catcher’s fingers, decoded sign sequences and then banged on trash cans to tell teammates at the plate what was coming. Evan Grant, Dallas News, "Wednesday was as much about meeting the newest Rangers as processing the ramifications of the Astros scandal," 15 Jan. 2020 The New York office had already decoded a few lines of the letter. Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, CNN, "How the FBI tracked down 'the spy who couldn't spell'," 1 Nov. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'decode.' 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 decode

1896, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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Time Traveler for decode

Time Traveler

The first known use of decode was in 1896

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Last Updated

25 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Decode.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Jul. 2020.

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How to pronounce decode (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of decode

: to change (secret messages, documents, etc.) from a set of letters, numbers, symbols, etc., you cannot understand into words you can understand
: to find or understand the true or hidden meaning of (something)
technical : to change signals for a radio, television, etc., to a form that can be heard or seen correctly


de·​code | \ dē-ˈkōd How to pronounce decode (audio) \
decoded; decoding

Kids Definition of decode

: to change a message in code into ordinary language

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More from Merriam-Webster on decode

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for decode

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with decode

Spanish Central: Translation of decode

Nglish: Translation of decode for Spanish Speakers

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