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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web Pentagon officials flagged concerns that Moscow would negatively interpret the move as direct NATO involvement in the conflict and could escalate the war beyond Ukraine’s borders. Caitlin Mcfall, Fox News, 27 June 2022 Instead, hearing aids and cochlear implants require the brain to interpret sound in a new way. Tali Arbel, The Christian Science Monitor, 27 June 2022 Just nine people get to interpret the meaning of a document written more than 200 years ago. Stacey Leasca, Glamour, 24 June 2022 Chamberlain seemingly confirmed to the host that there was nothing to interpret from her and Jack's quick exchange. Seventeen, 23 June 2022 In this example, bank statements would likely show a decline in revenue as the weather turned colder—and underwriters who may not have a relationship with the business could interpret the natural seasonality of the business as poor business health. Bernardo Martinez, Forbes, 3 June 2022 Although some Cuellar advocates interpret the unusual timing of the search as evidence that the Justice Department is performing a political hit on him, that argument makes no sense. Gilbert Garcia, San Antonio Express-News, 21 Apr. 2022 So, too, has his swing to the right since taking office, targeting equity initiatives and school mask mandates, which many political observers interpret as a bid for national headlines. Washington Post, 21 Apr. 2022 Scholars tend to interpret these mythological creatures as representative of the powerful forces of nature in a fairly harsh environment prone to earthquakes, avalanches, volcanoes, and the like. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 24 Dec. 2021 See More

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.

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

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

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Last Updated

30 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Interpret.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Jul. 2022.

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More Definitions for interpret


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

More from Merriam-Webster on interpret

Nglish: Translation of interpret for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of interpret for Arabic Speakers


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