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


break, crack, decipher, decrypt


cipher, code, encipher, encode, encrypt

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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

Scientists decode the black widow spider’s language of love. Lesley Evans Ogden, Discover Magazine, "Sex on the Beach," 30 June 2019 Encrypted messaging apps such as Telegram say that messages sent on their systems cannot be decoded by third parties during the delivery from sender to recipient. NBC News, "Chinese cyberattack hits Telegram app during Hong Kong protest," 14 June 2019 Encrypted messaging apps such as Telegram say that messages sent on their systems cannot be decoded by third parties during the delivery from sender to recipient. Washington Post, "Chinese cyberattack hits messaging app during HK protest," 13 June 2019 The sound bar offers a decent selection of inputs including Bluetooth and will decode both Dolby and DTS., "CNET: Best Father’s Day gifts under $250," 5 June 2019 Punk and hardcore fans scrambled to decode O’Rourke’s allegiance. Amanda Petrusich, The New Yorker, "The Nostalgia in Beto O’Rourke’s Indie-Rock Videos," 20 June 2019 There's no clear narrative, except maybe narcissism, but that's why Framing John DeLorean, the new biopic from IFC Films, begins with interviews from some of the many producers who've already tried to decode DeLorean. Ezra Dyer, Popular Mechanics, "The New DeLorean Biopic Is About Way More Than Cars," 1 May 2019 The researchers designed a machine-learning algorithm that could decode vibrations for specific keystrokes. Hamza Shaban, Washington Post, "Listen for the log-in: Hackers may glean your password by listening to how you type on your phone," 6 June 2019 But there has been little value in attempting to decode his actions. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Is There a Right Way to Cover the Trump White House?," 6 June 2019

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

10 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for decode

The first known use of decode was in 1896

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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

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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).


something desired as essential

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