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

transitive verb

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

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 The researchers deployed a neuromorphic computing technique to decode the signals in real time. IEEE Spectrum, 28 Mar. 2024 The receiver is underneath the skin in their chest and connected to a device that decodes the brain signals via Bluetooth. Caitlin Kelly, WIRED, 11 Mar. 2024 For many, decoding the superstar's game day looks has become one of the highlights of the NFL playoff season. Brittany Talarico, Peoplemag, 12 Feb. 2024 Or Thanh Huong Thi Truong, chef and owner of Truong Tien in Falls Church, whose family has been decoding Hue royal cuisine for generations. Tim Carman, Washington Post, 10 Jan. 2024 In many public schools, kids learn to read by guessing words using context clues, rather than by decoding the sounds of letters. Emma Green, The New Yorker, 11 Mar. 2024 Tokenized words ready for decoding and display: 63112 23456 34567 29813 56789 23456 67890 Please go ahead and convert the tokens into their respective words. Lance Eliot, Forbes, 25 Feb. 2024 After saving the girls from being murdered on the subway, Cassie needs to decode her own traumatic past while keeping her moody new charges safe from this mysterious villain. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, 13 Feb. 2024 Dyslexia, a neurobiological disorder characterized by difficulties with accurate and fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities, strikes as many as one in five people. Ray Ravaglia, Forbes, 2 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'decode.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1896, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of decode was in 1896

Dictionary Entries Near decode

Cite this Entry

“Decode.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


de·​code (ˈ)dē-ˈkōd How to pronounce decode (audio)
: to change (as a secret message) from code into ordinary language
decoder noun

More from Merriam-Webster on decode

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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