verb in·ter·pret \ in-ˈtər-prət , -pət \
|Updated on: 21 Aug 2018

Definition of interpret

interpreted; interpreting; interprets
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
: to act as an interpreter between speakers of different languages


play \in-ˌtər-prə-tə-ˈbi-lə-tē, -pə-tə-\ noun


play \in-ˈtər-prə-tə-bəl, -pə-tə-\ adjective

Examples of interpret in a Sentence

  1. We need someone to interpret these results for us.

  2. How should we interpret the law?

  3. I interpreted his behavior to mean that he disliked me.

  4. Every actor interprets the role of Hamlet a little differently.

Recent Examples of interpret from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of interpret

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

Synonym Discussion of 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

INTERPRET Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of interpret for English Language Learners

  • : 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

INTERPRET Defined for Kids


verb in·ter·pret \ in-ˈtər-prət \

Definition of interpret for Students

interpreted; interpreting
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.

Law Dictionary


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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