in·​ter·​pret | \in-ˈtər-prət, -pət\
interpreted; interpreting; interprets

Definition of interpret 

transitive verb

1 : to explain or tell the meaning of : present in understandable terms interpret dreams needed help interpreting the results

2 : to conceive in the light of individual belief, judgment, or circumstance : construe interpret a contract

3 : to represent by means of art : bring to realization by performance or direction interprets a role

intransitive verb

: to act as an interpreter between speakers of different languages

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Other Words from interpret

interpretability \in-​ˌtər-​prə-​tə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē, -​pə-​tə-​ \ noun
interpretable \in-​ˈtər-​prə-​tə-​bəl, -​pə-​tə-​ \ adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for interpret

explain, expound, explicate, elucidate, interpret mean to make something clear or understandable. explain implies a making plain or intelligible what is not immediately obvious or entirely known. explain the rules expound implies a careful often elaborate explanation. expounding a scientific theory explicate adds the idea of a developed or detailed analysis. explicate a poem elucidate stresses the throwing of light upon as by offering details or motives previously unclear or only implicit. elucidate an obscure passage interpret adds to explain the need for imagination or sympathy or special knowledge in dealing with something. interpreting a work of art

Examples of interpret in a Sentence

We need someone to interpret these results for us. How should we interpret the law? I interpreted his behavior to mean that he disliked me. Every actor interprets the role of Hamlet a little differently.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Sudden changes of heart on how to interpret the available data are more often just irrational. Jon Sindreu, WSJ, "Has the Bear Market Arrived? History Says Not," 26 Oct. 2018 Ars also specifically asked how the SBSD interprets the California State Constitution’s affirmative right to privacy, as outlined in Article I, Section 1. Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica, "Why does one California county sheriff have the highest rate of stingray use?," 24 Oct. 2018 For instance, what constitutes handball is clearly outlined, but how it is interpreted when assessing in-game scenarios is unique to the individual., "Why VAR is a Step in the Right Direction for Football Despite the Continued Scrutiny," 12 July 2018 For anyone who has undergone genetic cancer testing, understanding how to interpret a positive result can be very difficult. Paul Sisson,, "Free panel to explore living with inherited cancer risk," 10 July 2018 Liberal activists are preparing to launch a robust campaign against Kavanaugh over concerns about his originalist views on how to interpret the Constitution. Brian Bennett, Time, "How President Trump’s Supreme Court Pick Could Change the U.S.," 10 July 2018 Kaufman later told The Star that the department is budgeting an additional tax expense around $1 million, which could change depending on how tax advisers interpret KU men's basketball coach Bill Self's salary for next year. Jesse Newell, Kellis Robinett, Aaron Reiss And Taylor Eldridge, kansascity, "KU, Mizzou and others will pay more for coaches this year because of new tax law," 28 June 2018 Physicians, researchers and readers all come with their own set of biases that can affect how a study comes together and how it's interpreted. Ashley May, USA TODAY, "Is coffee healthy or not: How to know if medical studies are worth your time," 15 June 2018 Trump has made the Supreme Court more conservative, but conservative judges tend to interpret the Constitution as it was understood at the time of its drafting. Salvador Rizzo, The Seattle Times, "Fact-checking Trump’s talk on birthright citizenship, military at the border," 31 Oct. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'interpret.' 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 interpret

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for interpret

Middle English, from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French interpreter, from Latin interpretari, from interpret-, interpres agent, negotiator, interpreter

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Statistics for interpret

Last Updated

11 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for interpret

The first known use of interpret was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for interpret



English Language Learners Definition of interpret

: to explain the meaning of (something)

: to understand (something) in a specified way

: to perform (something, such as a song or a role) in a way that shows your own thoughts and feelings about it


in·​ter·​pret | \in-ˈtər-prət \
interpreted; interpreting

Kids Definition of interpret

1 : to explain the meaning of She claims to interpret dreams.

2 : to understand in a particular way He interpreted Cluny's order as the much-coveted promotion to second-in-command.— Brian Jacques, Redwall

3 : to bring out the meaning of An actor interprets a role.


transitive verb
in·​ter·​pret | \in-ˈtər-prət \

Legal Definition of interpret 

: to explain or tell the meaning of (as a document) especially in order to determine intent they must interpret the provisions of the Constitution— L. H. Tribe

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Comments on interpret

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living or existing for a long time

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