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 The tweet contained arrow symbols, which Ioffe interpreted as the work of some nefarious foreign outfit. Sean Clancy, Arkansas Online, "PAPER TRAILS: Arkansan points out: Not a troll," 24 Nov. 2019 The independent journalists at Bellingcat have put together a guide to searching through and interpreting the data—and have raised the possibility that several IronMarch members were active US military personnel. Wired, "Security News This Week: Huge Data Leak Doxes Members of Notorious Neo-Nazi Forum," 9 Nov. 2019 Written on the eve of World War II, it has been interpreted as an allegory for the indoctrination of Nazi ideology. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, "Emmy-Winner Luke Kirby to Lead 'Judgment Day' on New York Stage," 16 Oct. 2019 The primary role of government is to make, interpret and implement laws that are in the best interests of the general welfare of its citizens. Pioneer Press Elections Team, Twin Cities, "SOUTH WASHINGTON COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD," 15 Oct. 2019 Most celebs have been pairing a flip with a half-up, but the look has also been interpreted in bobs, high ponies, or red-carpet-appropriate updos. Bella Cacciatore, Allure, "The Retro Hair Flip Trend Is Everywhere," 15 Oct. 2019 The Norwich Historical Society, Killingly Historical Society, Thompson Together, and Thompson Trails Committee received the awards to preserve, protect, promote, interpret, and market historical and cultural resources. Denise Coffey,, "TLGV Awards $12K To Local Organizations," 14 Oct. 2019 Using an iPhone, iPad or desktop computer, BrainCheck administers a test that interprets a patient's level of cognitive function and creates a personalized treatment plan. Andrea Leinfelder, Houston Chronicle, "Houston startup raises $8M for product that assesses cognitive impairment, dementia," 8 Oct. 2019 The finding helped prompt Congress in 2017 to order NOAA researchers to study how the public receives, interprets and responds to weather alerts and to come up with better warnings. Thomas Frank, Scientific American, "Conundrum: Why People Do Not Listen to Evacuation Orders," 27 Sep. 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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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

27 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Interpret.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 5 December 2019.

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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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