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 That means new and fun ways of interpreting pumpkin dishes, creamy pastas with a fall twist, party food with an upgraded base and more. 1. Washington Post, "These are the 5 recipes our readers loved most this week," 1 Nov. 2019 Which, in essence, means that the Zuck's statement could–at best–be interpreted as misleading (and, at worst, as a straight up lie during a congressional testimony). Chelsey Sanchez, Harper's BAZAAR, "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Makes Mark Zuckerberg Sputter Like a Loose Faucet," 24 Oct. 2019 Although radiologists are experts at imaging pattern recognition, a large fraction of the work involves understanding the pathophysiology of disease so images can be interpreted correctly. Gary Marcus, STAT, "Advancing AI in health care: It’s all about trust," 23 Oct. 2019 The addition of Morris, 30, could be interpreted that the Cardinals can’t be sure either Johnson or Foster will be available this Sunday when the team travels to New Orleans to meet the Saints (6-1), winners of five straight. Arizona Republic, azcentral, "Cardinals to sign running back Alfred Morris with David Johnson injured, report says," 22 Oct. 2019 There are different ways of interpreting this result. Adam Mann, The New Yorker, "Intelligent Ways to Search for Extraterrestrials," 3 Oct. 2019 Those three songs do represent FIVE NEW OLD's way of interpreting popular music. Billboard Japan, Billboard, "Japanese Rockers FIVE NEW OLD Talk New Album, 'Emulsification': Interview," 11 Sep. 2019 So will the judge actually turn to interpreting the contract at hand and the content of Leaving Neverland? Eriq Gardner, The Hollywood Reporter, "Could the Bizarre Legal Fight Over HBO's Michael Jackson Doc Wind Up at the Supreme Court?," 30 Aug. 2019 Perhaps the justices—or at least a critical mass of them—felt no need to upset the lower courts’ work in interpreting Heller so far. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "The Supreme Court’s First Major Gun Case in a Decade," 14 Aug. 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

13 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Interpret.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 22 November 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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Comments on interpret

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


not agreeing with established beliefs

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