in·​ter·​pret | \ in-ˈtər-prət How to pronounce interpret (audio) , -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 How to pronounce interpretability (audio) , -​pə-​tə-​ \ noun
interpretable \ in-​ˈtər-​prə-​tə-​bəl How to pronounce interpretable (audio) , -​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

Our flag has been made and interpreted by the people of this country for 200 years. Ana Campoy, Quartz, "Ten ways of looking at the American flag, from around the globe," 3 July 2019 But their findings were not interpreted so carefully by cannabis advocates and some policymakers. The Economist, "Medical marijuana is not the way out of America’s opioid crisis," 24 June 2019 During Trump’s time in the U.K. during 2018, Queen Elizabeth opted for three different brooches to complete her regal look on various occasions, and each one was easily interpreted by fans as a very subtle shade-throw in the President’s direction. Lucy Wood, Marie Claire, "Did The Queen's Brooch for Trump's U.S. Visit Throw Shade This Time Around?," 3 June 2019 Buddy Holly, the titan, joyfully interpreted by Blind Father, the supergroup. Ryan D'agostino, Popular Mechanics, "100 Songs to Clean the Garage To," 20 Nov. 2018 Meanwhile other passages such as Romans 13 are interpreted by evangelicals like former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to justify Trump’s family separation policy and an authoritarian political theology. Tara Isabella Burton, Vox, "Several white evangelical leaders reject anti-immigrant rhetoric. Why do their flocks embrace it?," 20 Nov. 2018 The effort to save a 4-year-old orca named J50, or Scarlet, comes as another member of her family has drawn national attention for carrying her dead calf for more than two weeks, behavior interpreted by researchers to represent intense grief. Christine Clarridge, The Seattle Times, "Sick orca gets shot of antibiotics as rescuers prepare feeding attempt," 10 Aug. 2018 The moves have been interpreted by some as a potential signal to associates ensnared in Mueller's investigation that Trump could give them legal relief. Seung Min Kim,, "Senate Republicans warn Trump not to pardon himself," 5 June 2018 Some interpreted it as a gesture by Iran’s hardliners aimed at easing tensions and improving ties. The Economist, "Backed into a corner, Iran is lashing out," 22 June 2019

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

10 Jul 2019

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 How to pronounce interpret (audio) \
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 How to pronounce interpret (audio) \

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

What made you want to look up interpret? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


characterized by aphorism

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