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 But the only way to prove that Reddington is N13 now is to decode the messages using the machine that the FBI currently possesses. Jodi Walker,, "The Blacklist recap: It's a good old-fashioned heist," 1 May 2021 As one of the earliest pioneers of our little cocktail renaissance, Bradsell did as much as anyone to decode the mixological secrets of the past. Jason O'bryan, Robb Report, "How to Make a Bramble, a Gin Drink Invented by a Pioneer of the Cocktail Renaissance," 22 Apr. 2021 Filmmaker & cinematographer Drew Xanthopoulos delivers a visual and aural wonder of a documentary—an immersive and sensorial film that follows researchers working to finally decode the communication of humpback whales. Devon Ivie, Vulture, "Ilana Glazer and Zoe Lister-Jones Lead the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival Lineup," 20 Apr. 2021 The meme-like remix of this theme in the metal ornament suggests some form of satire, albeit one that may be impossible for 21st-century observers to fully decode. Livia Gershon, Smithsonian Magazine, "Was This Ornament of a Knight Emerging From a Snail Shell a ‘Medieval Meme’?," 24 Mar. 2021 Fans were recently trying to decode the setlist after Olivia sent her newsletter subscribers special notes with hints at the album track names to different users. Tamara Fuentes, Seventeen, "Olivia Rodrigo Announces Release Date and Track List for Debut Album "Sour"," 13 Apr. 2021 Neuroscience is far from understanding how the mind works — much less having the ability to decode it. Anna Wexler, STAT, "A skeptic’s take on Neuralink and other consumer neurotech," 8 Apr. 2021 One week ahead of the release of Fearless (Taylor's Version), Taylor Swift has shared a very trippy Instagram post, officially opening the vault door and asking her sleuthing fans to decode yet another puzzle. Carolyn Twersky, Seventeen, "Taylor Swift Just Revealed Her Six "From the Vault" Song Titles in a Trippy New Instagram," 2 Apr. 2021 In the end, teams use the rings to decode a word puzzle, and whoever solves it fastest, wins. Sydney Bucksbaum,, "The Challenge: Double Agents recap: Instant regret," 18 Mar. 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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Last Updated

9 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Decode.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 May. 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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