View synonyms for decipher


[ dih-sahy-fer ]

verb (used with object)

  1. to make out the meaning of (poor or partially obliterated writing, etc.):

    to decipher a hastily scribbled note.

  2. to discover the meaning of (anything obscure or difficult to trace or understand):

    to decipher hieroglyphics.

    Synonyms: explain, unravel, solve, comprehend

  3. to interpret by the use of a key, as something written in cipher:

    to decipher a secret message.

  4. Obsolete. to depict; portray.


/ dɪˈsaɪfə /


  1. to determine the meaning of (something obscure or illegible)
  2. to convert from code into plain text; decode

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Derived Forms

  • deˈcipherable, adjective
  • deˌcipheraˈbility, noun
  • deˈcipherer, noun
  • deˈcipherment, noun

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Other Words From

  • de·cipher·a·ble adjective
  • de·cipher·a·bili·ty noun
  • de·cipher·er noun
  • de·cipher·ment noun
  • unde·cipher·a·ble adjective
  • unde·cipher·a·bly adverb
  • unde·ciphered adjective

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Word History and Origins

Origin of decipher1

First recorded in 1520–30; translation of Middle French déchiffrer; equivalent to de- + cipher

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Example Sentences

Q’s posts contain clues, and adherents are told to decipher the messages and do independent research to uncover the secrets.

Reading a scientific paper can sometimes feel like deciphering a wall of code.

Now, scientists are figuring out how, thanks to the first-ever deciphering, or sequencing, of the tuatara’s genetic instruction book.

Like hand-drawn maps from early explorers sailing to the western hemisphere, these maps provide the brain’s geographical patterns from which we try to decipher functional connections.

Link receivers and providers can easily decipher sponsored links from “untrustworthy” nofollow links.

It was beyond the capacity of any human cryptologist to decipher the signals.

I never owned a copy but I knew people who did, and we spent hours in dorm rooms trying to decipher what was on it.

For those few months it may have appeared quite simple to decipher the good from the bad.

The duchess sat at a replica radio to hear, learn about, and decipher morse code.

After a brief exchange to decipher why Smith, Alencar, and Mousa wanted to go to Syria, the journalists told them to go home.

The Greek character will now become easy to decipher; and the evening papers may take King Otho both off the throne and on.

She longed to penetrate below the surface and decipher the strange palimpsest of human life.

We do not propose that he shall decipher the hieroglyphics of algebra and geometry.

The printers were not compelled to decipher the peculiarities of anyone's handwriting; Stowe's copy was printed and punctuated.

Mr. Monk had been altogether unable to decipher the Duke's purpose in the question he had asked.