de·​code | \(ˌ)dē-ˈkōd \

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)

2a : decipher sense 3a

b : to discover the underlying meaning of decode the play's imagery

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms & Antonyms for decode


break, crack, decipher, decrypt


cipher, code, encipher, encode, encrypt

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

As fans continue to decode the album for clues, the pop star has been reveling in the release day fun and was spotted literally letting her hair down for the occasion. Lauren Rearick, Teen Vogue, "Ariana Grande Wore Her Hair Straight and Down," 17 Aug. 2018 While many instances of bias usually need to be decoded, this one was pretty straightforward. Azadeh Valanejad, Glamour, "Sen. Lindsey Graham's Racist and Islamophobic Comment About Iran Re-Traumatized Me," 22 Oct. 2018 An Amazon Echo is connected to a laptop, with a webcam (and some back-end machine learning software) decoding Singh’s gestures in text and speech. James Vincent, The Verge, "This Amazon Echo mod lets Alexa understand sign language," 24 July 2018 You may be needed to help decode a message from intelligent aliens someday. Mike Wall,, "Decoding Alien Messages Could Be the Biggest Citizen-Science Project Ever," 26 May 2018 The only easy way to extract the hidden information in all those tiny tweaks is with the research teams' decoding algorithm. Lily Hay Newman, WIRED, "You Can Send Invisible Messages With Subtle Font Tweaks," 20 May 2018 But now, a number of companies are producing maps that decode the three-dimensional world. Jessi Hempel, WIRED, "How Maps Became the New Search Box," 13 June 2018 Since its genesis, the account has become the primary source for decoding Supreme’s weekly drops, providing commentary alongside diptychs. Steff Yotka, Vogue, "You Won’t Find America's Menswear Designer of the Year at NYFW Men’s," 9 July 2018 The tiki-taka that so beguiled the world from 2008 through 2012-plus has been decoded, and the players who perfected it have aged out. Brian Straus,, "Dogged Russia Continues World Cup Run, Brings Spain's Celebrated Era to an End," 1 July 2018

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.

See More

First Known Use of decode

1896, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about decode

Statistics for decode

Last Updated

11 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for decode

The first known use of decode was in 1896

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for decode



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)

: to change signals for a radio, television, etc., to a form that can be heard or seen correctly


de·​code | \dē-ˈkōd \
decoded; decoding

Kids Definition of decode

: to change a message in code into ordinary language

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on decode

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with decode

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for decode

Spanish Central: Translation of decode

Nglish: Translation of decode for Spanish Speakers

Comments on decode

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


living or existing for a long time

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
True or False

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


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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