de·​code | \ (ˌ)dē-ˈkōd \
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

The seismic waves from these wobbles will help planetary scientists decode the structure of Mars’ interior, similar to how ultrasounds show us what’s inside a person’s body. Loren Grush, The Verge, "Hanging out at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory," 27 Nov. 2018 Our experts in the Good Housekeeping Institute decode the two platforms. The Good Housekeeping Institute, Good Housekeeping, "Google Home or Amazon Echo: Which Smart Speaker Is Right for You?," 16 July 2018 Those keeping track of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's every move toward each other in order to decode their relationship can calm down: On Thursday, July 5, the royal pair made a triumphant return to their usual levels of PDA and held hands. Andrea Park, Glamour, "Here's Proof Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Are Still Holding Hands," 6 July 2018 But Parker is carrying another instrument that could prove invaluable in decoding the sun: simple cameras. Jay Bennett, Popular Mechanics, "The New Science of the Sun Will Be Astounding—And Possibly Terrifying," 9 Aug. 2018 Knowing the specific letters and decoding them wasn’t part of my process. Lisa Wood Shapiro, WIRED, "The End of Dyslexia," 18 June 2018 In the future, cost might be less of an issue, as the price of decoding a person's genome continues to drop. Sarah Elizabeth Richards,, "Rapid sequencing of babies' genes may save lives," 11 June 2018 In the decades since, few people have bothered to learn how to decode the notes. New York Times, "In ‘Harlequinade,’ Gestures Dance, and Dances Tell Stories," 29 May 2018 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

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

6 Feb 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 \
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

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