in·​ter·​pret in-ˈtər-prət How to pronounce interpret (audio)
interpreted; interpreting; interprets

transitive verb

: to explain or tell the meaning of : present in understandable terms
interpret dreams
needed help interpreting the results
: to conceive in the light of individual belief, judgment, or circumstance : construe
interpret a contract
: 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
interpretability noun
interpretable 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 Screen Time: 8 seconds Verdict: Goldblum gets a big laugh, while providing a key to interpreting the whole film. Peter Debruge, Variety, 24 Nov. 2023 Our brains, quite sensibly but inaccurately, interpret the light as coming from the ground. Avery Hurt, Discover Magazine, 24 Nov. 2023 Hot takes on social media compound the problem, as one person interprets a study one way, while another person cherry-picks information for a partisan claim. WSJ, 21 Nov. 2023 At the heart of the controversy is a debate over ancient Egypt: Who should interpret it, and how? Lenora Chu, The Christian Science Monitor, 17 Nov. 2023 But they are interpreted by Israel supporters, Jewish advocacy groups and many others as antisemitic, eliminationist rhetoric describing the destruction of the Jewish state and its people. Miles Klee, Rolling Stone, 17 Nov. 2023 Soon, others followed with demonstrations of drawing a clone of Breakout, creating a working dial clock that ticks, drawing the snake game, making a Pong game, interpreting a visual state chart, and much more. Benj Edwards, Ars Technica, 16 Nov. 2023 Many of its officials interpreted this as a prohibition on negotiations. Joel Simon, The New Yorker, 16 Nov. 2023 The challenge came in how our animation department interpreted that [iconography] through motion — for example when Wade’s whole shape changes to emphasize his watery-ness. Hugh Hart, Los Angeles Times, 15 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'interpret.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near interpret

Cite this Entry

“Interpret.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Nov. 2023.

Kids Definition


in·​ter·​pret in-ˈtər-prət How to pronounce interpret (audio)
: to explain the meaning of
interpret a dream
: to understand according to one's own belief or judgment
interpret an act as unfriendly
: to bring out the meaning of by performing
an actor interprets a role
: to translate for speakers of different languages
interpretable adjective

Legal Definition


transitive verb
in·​ter·​pret in-ˈtər-prət How to pronounce interpret (audio)
: to explain or tell the meaning of (as a document) especially in order to determine intent
they must interpret the provisions of the ConstitutionL. H. Tribe

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