in·​ter·​pre·​ta·​tion | \in-ˌtər-prə-ˈtā-shən, -pə-\

Definition of interpretation 

1 : the act or the result of interpreting : explanation

2 : a particular adaptation or version of a work, method, or style

3 : a teaching technique that combines factual with stimulating explanatory information natural history interpretation program

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Other Words from interpretation

interpretational \ in-​ˌtər-​prə-​ˈtā-​shnəl , -​shə-​nᵊl, -​pə-​ \ adjective
interpretative \ in-​ˈtər-​prə-​ˌtā-​tiv also  -​prə-​tə-​tiv \ adjective
interpretatively adverb
interpretive \ in-​ˈtər-​prə-​tiv , -​pə-​ \ adjective
interpretively adverb

Examples of interpretation in a Sentence

a literal interpretation of the law The truth will only be found by careful interpretation of the evidence. His remarks need further interpretation. an actor's interpretation of the role of Hamlet
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Recent Examples on the Web

Although Nigeria’s northern states have long enforced sharia, or Islamic law, their interpretation was not strict enough for Yusuf. The Economist, "The fight against Islamic State is moving to Africa," 14 July 2018 See our interpretations on Adele's looks above — and learn the secret behind her winged liner, too., "I Got Transformed Into Adele — & This Is What I Looked Like," 11 July 2018 One of the country's best orchestras, the versatile Indianapolis Symphony, is known for its precise interpretations of classical works and its swinging renditions of pops. Sarah Bahr, Indianapolis Star, "Ultimate Indiana bucket list: 50+ things to do in Indianapolis and around the state," 11 July 2018 Another interpretation is that Ms. Merkel has shown just enough flexibility to keep her political partners bought in and the European experiment going. New York Times, "Germany’s Europe-Shaking Political Crisis Over Migrants, Explained," 3 July 2018 But the appeals court said that interpretation of state law was too narrow. Jonathan Drew, The Seattle Times, "Retrial ordered for man who shot black friend in yard," 3 July 2018 One interpretation is that the threats have more to do with negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement than the EU’s 10% tariff on U.S. car imports or the new tax on Harleys. Stephen Wilmot, WSJ, "Tariff Talk Has Slammed the IPO Window Shut for Car Makers," 27 June 2018 But interpretation is never an activity in which all participants engage with the same privileges or advantages. Walt Hunter, The Atlantic, "When Hamlet Starts Showing Up in Federal Court," 13 June 2018 Review continues below gallery One of the key elements to a stellar banh mi is the bread and Ngon Appetit delivers its interpretation on a true-to-form baguette with a pleasant crust that gives way to a pillowy interior. Lindsey Mcclave, The Courier-Journal, "Ngon Appetit keeps it simple with 3 items — soup, sandwiches, crepes," 11 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'interpretation.' 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 interpretation

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Last Updated

31 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for interpretation

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

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English Language Learners Definition of interpretation

: the act or result of explaining or interpreting something : the way something is explained or understood

: a particular way of performing something


in·​ter·​pre·​ta·​tion | \in-ˌtər-prə-ˈtā-shən \

Kids Definition of interpretation

1 : the way something is explained or understood What's your interpretation of the results?

2 : a particular way of performing something (as a dramatic role)


in·​ter·​pre·​ta·​tion | \in-ˌtər-prə-ˈtā-shən, -pə- \

Medical Definition of interpretation 

: the act or result of giving an explanation of something interpretation of the symptoms of disease especially : an explanation in understandable terms to a patient in psychotherapy of the deeper meaning according to psychological theory of the material related and the behavior exhibited by the patient during treatment

Other Words from interpretation

interpret \ in-​ˈtər-​prət, -​pət \ transitive verb
interpretive \ -​prət-​iv, -​pət-​ \ or interpretative \ -​prə-​ˌtāt-​iv , -​prət-​ət-​iv \ adjective

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in·​ter·​pre·​ta·​tion | \in-ˌtər-prə-ˈtā-shən \

Legal Definition of interpretation 

: the act or result of interpreting — compare construction

Other Words from interpretation

interpretative \ in-​ˈtər-​prə-​ˌtā-​tiv, -​tə-​tiv \ adjective
interpretive \ in-​ˈtər-​prə-​tiv \ adjective

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Comments on interpretation

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


obstinately defiant of authority

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