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

Other Words from interpret

interpretability \ in-​ˌtər-​prə-​tə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce interpret (audio) , -​pə-​tə-​ \ noun
interpretable \ in-​ˈtər-​prə-​tə-​bəl How to pronounce interpret (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.
Recent Examples on the Web Current data will be migrated to a new portal that includes more charts and maps and other visualizations, as well as ideas on how users can review and interpret the data. Jonathan Bullington, The Courier-Journal, 1 Aug. 2022 The experience of other countries is feeding into how American democracy advocates interpret what’s happening in their own country. Matt Pearce, Los Angeles Times, 29 July 2022 The SBC’s Credentials Committee initially recommended having another panel study how to interpret the denomination’s doctrine on who can serve as a pastor. Deepa Bharath And Peter Smith, The Christian Science Monitor, 15 June 2022 The SBC’s Credentials Committee initially recommended having another panel study how to interpret the denomination’s doctrine on who can serve as a pastor. Deepa Bharath And Peter Smith, Chron, 15 June 2022 The buildup of vehicles is one example of the confusion at key European ports over how to interpret and enforce sanctions against Russia. Costas Paris, WSJ, 23 Apr. 2022 Yet there’s broad uncertainty about how courts would interpret such bills, which might lead to companies and websites taking down information about abortions for fear of lawsuits. Cat Zakrzewski, Washington Post, 22 July 2022 Outer cameras will allow the device to pick up video from the user’s surroundings and interpret hand gestures. Chris Smith, BGR, 12 July 2022 In other words, how does the output of the artificial physicist guarantee an output equation that meaningfully maps to what humans can interpret? Stephen Ibaraki, Forbes, 12 July 2022 See More

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.

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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Time Traveler for interpret

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

5 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Interpret.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for interpret


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

More from Merriam-Webster on interpret

Nglish: Translation of interpret for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of interpret for Arabic Speakers


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