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

Synonyms & Antonyms for decode



Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
Recent Examples on the Web To be resilient to these risks, companies need to decode the complexity of these forces, understand business impact and address stakeholders’ divergent demands. Forbes, 8 Aug. 2022 NeuroKey software would then decode that data and play it back as auditory feedback tones, since the patient's eyesight was very limited. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 15 Apr. 2022 The Astros were found to have used a system to decode opponents' signs and relay them to hitters by banging on a trash can during the 2017 season. Matt Young, Chron, 21 Apr. 2022 Attorneys have had to wrestle with an alphabet soup of witness testimony and email evidence over the past seven weeks, stopping every few minutes to decode a jumble of letters or make sense of Navy jargon. Kristina Davis, San Diego Union-Tribune, 15 Apr. 2022 Technological devices that directly interact with the brain, known as brain-computer interfaces, offer the potential to decode an individual’s thoughts and translate them into action using a robotic arm or a cursor on a screen. David Caldwell, The Conversation, 30 Mar. 2022 Putin’s order, issued as Russian troops face stiff resistance in the fifth day of their invasion of Ukraine, to decode what the enigmatic leader’s decision meant in practice. Washington Post, 28 Feb. 2022 The other big entrant that year, Facebook, had more modest designs: The company planned to build a noninvasive headset that could decode thought at a rate of 100 words per minute. Kelly Clancy, Wired, 10 Jan. 2022 Not a great skier himself, Mailer is trying to decode the secret of the skier’s drive. Rachel Kushner, Harper’s Magazine , 16 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

First Known Use of decode

1896, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Learn More About decode

Dictionary Entries Near decode




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for decode

Last Updated

13 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Decode.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Aug. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for decode


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

Kids Definition of decode

: to change a message in code into ordinary language

More from Merriam-Webster on decode

Nglish: Translation of decode for Spanish Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

The Great British Vocabulary Quiz

  • union jack speech bubble
  • Named after Sir Robert Peel, what are British police called?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!