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 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.
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Recent Examples on the Web Experts say further research is needed to interpret these results. Kate Baggaley, Popular Science, "Here’s where all the COVID-19 vaccine candidates currently stand," 18 Dec. 2020 There are dozens of ways to interpret election results. David Yanofsky, Quartz, "The ways to understand US election results," 3 Nov. 2020 For his big sea and harbor scenes—there are two harbors at the Frick—Turner applied splooshes of paint that we are expected to interpret as an accurate capturing of light and atmosphere. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, "When a Museum Feels Like Home," 8 Feb. 2021 The order asks the agency specifically to interpret and clarify Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a law passed by Congress in 1996. Nihal Krishan, Washington Examiner, "Biden selects Section 230 defender to be acting chairwoman of Federal Trade Commission," 21 Jan. 2021 If judges continue to interpret the PREP Act as shielding only the physical administration of the vaccine, and allowing liability for the decision not to vaccinate, perverse incentives abound. Samuel Tarry, STAT, "Keep Covid-19 vaccination decisions out of the courtroom," 13 Jan. 2021 Shareholders and corporate officers have a tendency to interpret this as a legal duty to maximize the company's profits, although that is not exactly what the law says. Kate Cox, Ars Technica, "CD Projekt Red investors sue company over Cyberpunk 2077 debacle," 28 Dec. 2020 And Amazon has extended its returns window through the end of January in what many analysts interpret as an attempt to avoid further strain on its delivery network. Isabelle Lee,, "Amazon Urges Shoppers to Order Early to Avoid Shipping Delays," 17 Nov. 2020 What the reasonable political observer would interpret as a promising coalition for bipartisan governing, West viewed as a sellout. Gilbert Garcia,, "Garcia: Texas GOP chair can’t tell allies from adversaries," 14 Nov. 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

2 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Interpret.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for interpret



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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Comments on interpret

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