in·ter·pret | \in-ˈtər-prət, -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, -pə-tə- \ noun
interpretable \in-ˈtər-prə-tə-bəl, -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

Gandhi said that part of the law hasn’t been interpreted by the board before. Melissa Daniels, The Seattle Times, "Pharmacist denies woman miscarriage drug on moral grounds," 26 June 2018 It can possibly be interpreted as being so broad as to cover providing factual information. Angela Chen, The Verge, "A law professor explains why Walgreens can deny birth control prescriptions — and how policies might change," 26 June 2018 Other scholars and activists have also critiqued the original word-gap study’s methodology and the way its findings have been interpreted by policymakers. Laura Mckenna, The Atlantic, "The Long, Contentious History of the ‘Word Gap’ Study," 15 June 2018 The questions from White House officials were interpreted by those on the receiving end as oriented toward fact-finding, not as an attempt by the administration to influence the state House committee's work. Rebecca Berg, CNN, "Trump administration officials inquiring whether Greitens scandal could impact top aide to VP," 1 May 2018 But some observers interpreted it as a gesture of defiance to commentators condemning him for the decision to perform in Russia despite the country's extremely strained relations with the West and, especially, the United Kingdom. Vladimir Kozlov, The Hollywood Reporter, "World Cup: Will Smith to Perform at Closing Ceremony," 12 July 2018 Please permit me by this letter to express my profound gratitude for having had the privilege to seek in each case how best to know, interpret, and defend the Constitution and the laws that must always conform to its mandates and promises. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "Anthony Kennedy’s Great Legacy: His Exit," 27 June 2018 Stewart still possesses a keen sense of how to interpret and own a song -- whether written by him or other songwriters -- and make listeners feel it from the inside out. Gail Mitchell, Billboard, "Rod Stewart Announces New Album, Proves He's 'Forever Young' at Hollywood Bowl," 27 June 2018 One Google employee reached Thursday before the guidelines were released said that any such rules would be hard to trust if only interpreted and enforced internally. Tom Simonite, WIRED, "Google Sets Limits on Its Use of AI, but Allows Defense Work," 7 June 2018

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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Statistics for interpret

Last Updated

16 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for interpret

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

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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 \
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 \

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).


a state of commotion or excitement

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