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 This is a problem, because young kids often don’t interpret vague references to race as being about race. Washington Post, "What white parents get wrong about raising antiracist kids — and how to get it right," 25 June 2020 The explanation for how -- or even whether -- to interpret the results will happen high in the chat. The Washington Post, "Chatological Humor with Gene Weingarten," 23 June 2020 MMC Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including InHealth Ventures, Seedcamp, and Bayer G4A. – Deep01, a Taiwanese startup that develops software to help doctors interpret CT brain scans, raised $2.7 million in funding. Lucinda Shen, Fortune, "He ran Google’s advertising arm. Now he’s building a search engine that cuts out ads," 22 June 2020 Shortages of supplies needed to make or interpret the tests have eased. Elizabeth Cooney, STAT, "A ‘semi-wartime’ effort: Thermo Fisher COO on adapting the business to a Covid-19 world," 19 June 2020 That’s one way to interpret the 11 charges—including felony murder, which can carry the death penalty—against former Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe over the June 12 shooting of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "The Atlanta Shooting," 19 June 2020 Previous Presidents did not present the need for courts to interpret these clauses’ meaning. Jeannie Suk Gersen, The New Yorker, "Can the Constitution Reach Trump’s Corruption?," 9 June 2020 In Arizona, experts say common flaws in the current system emerge as deadly force is investigated, as prosecutors handle such cases, as police unions weigh in, and as juries interpret the lethal force law and weigh who is most believable. Lauren Castle, azcentral, "Police officers are rarely prosecuted or convicted in Arizona. Here are some of the hurdles," 9 June 2020 But a misclassification error is sparking debate over how to interpret the data, muddling the picture for investors. Julia Horowitz, CNN, "Investors are watching as New York City eases its lockdown," 8 June 2020

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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Time Traveler for interpret

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for interpret

Last Updated

29 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Interpret.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for interpret


How to pronounce interpret (audio)

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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