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[dih-sahy-fer] /dɪˈsaɪ fər/
verb (used with object)
to make out the meaning of (poor or partially obliterated writing, etc.):
to decipher a hastily scribbled note.
to discover the meaning of (anything obscure or difficult to trace or understand):
to decipher hieroglyphics.
to interpret by the use of a key, as something written in cipher:
to decipher a secret message.
Obsolete. to depict; portray.
Origin of decipher
1520-30; translation of Middle French déchiffrer. See de-, cipher
Related forms
decipherable, adjective
decipherability, noun
decipherer, noun
decipherment, noun
undecipherable, adjective
undecipherably, adverb
undeciphered, adjective
2. comprehend, solve, unravel, explain. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for decipherable
Historical Examples
  • Without a strong magnifying glass, not a word was decipherable.

    The Web of the Golden Spider

    Frederick Orin Bartlett
  • Her figure-head had been washed away and the name on her stern was not decipherable.

    Jack Harkaway in New York Bracebridge Hemyng
  • As before, these marks are only decipherable when the cards are held at a proper angle.

    Sharps and Flats John Nevil Maskelyne
  • In worn examples the row of five stamps is not decipherable.

  • Admirable, ineffaceable, because so essentially all decipherable, Vanderpool!

  • All her cards are on the table, decipherable at the first glance.

  • The autograph was not very plain, it is true, but it was decipherable and the mistake was due to her own bad reading.

    A Fortnight of Folly Maurice Thompson
  • Now, the Eton book has in it a whole series of names of owners, some erased, but decipherable.

  • The decipherable words 'morning light' and 'offerings' point to this having been a sacred stone when sun worship was prevalent.

    Southern Arabia Theodore Bent
  • Rolling eyeballs and grinding teeth are, however, sufficient signs of anger to be decipherable in the dark.

British Dictionary definitions for decipherable


verb (transitive)
to determine the meaning of (something obscure or illegible)
to convert from code into plain text; decode
Derived Forms
decipherable, adjective
decipherability, noun
decipherer, noun
decipherment, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for decipherable



1520s, from de- + cipher. Perhaps in part a loan-translation from Middle French déchiffrer. Related: Deciphered; deciphering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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