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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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 Here were two men who plainly loathed one another, engaged in a debate that any casual observer would need a glossary to decode. Benjamin Wallace-wells, The New Yorker, 27 May 2021 This is the premise of Crime Scene Kitchen which has bakers from around the country using their sleuthing skills to decode a recipe and then recreate it for judges to consume. Anne Easton, Forbes, 26 May 2021 At HudsonAlpha, Charlene’s DNA was split into tiny fragments, then placed in the sequencing machine to decode the precise sequence of letters in each. New York Times, 3 May 2021 The teams have to decode a phrase solving basic or long math problems with each answer coinciding with a letter. Kyndall Cunningham, Vulture, 30 Apr. 2021 The Associated Press asked legal experts to decode some of those questions. Fox News, 17 Mar. 2021 Criminals would much rather target information that’s at rest in databases than try to capture and decode it in transit. Liz Weston, oregonlive, 30 May 2021 The company had to ship most of its machinery from Asia and hire a translator to decode the less-than-complete documentation, usually written in Chinese. Tom Simonite, Wired, 17 May 2021 To monitor and learn about a virus and its evolution - or mutations - researchers use a process called genomic sequencing to decode the genes within the virus. al, 15 May 2021

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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Statistics for decode

Last Updated

14 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Decode.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jun. 2021.

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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)
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

More from Merriam-Webster on decode

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for decode

Nglish: Translation of decode for Spanish Speakers


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