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See more synonyms for decipher on Thesaurus.com
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.
  3. to interpret by the use of a key, as something written in cipher: to decipher a secret message.
  4. Obsolete. to depict; portray.
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Origin of decipher

1520–30; translation of Middle French déchiffrer. See de-, cipher
Related formsde·ci·pher·a·ble, adjectivede·ci·pher·a·bil·i·ty, nounde·ci·pher·er, nounde·ci·pher·ment, nounun·de·ci·pher·a·ble, adjectiveun·de·ci·pher·a·bly, adverbun·de·ci·phered, adjective


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for decipherment

Historical Examples

  • Grotefend, Georg Friedrich, decipherment of wedge writing, 16.

    The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria

    Morris Jastrow

  • Your decipherment of the secret despatch has come too late to do us good,—too late.

    The Shadow of the Czar

    John R. Carling

  • This done, the work of decipherment would take but a few minutes.

    The Shadow of the Czar

    John R. Carling

  • These may afford the key to the decipherment of both Lydian and Etruscan.

    Archology and the Bible

    George A. Barton

  • Of date or postmark there is no vestige, and the decipherment was not easy.

British Dictionary definitions for decipherment


verb (tr)
  1. to determine the meaning of (something obscure or illegible)
  2. to convert from code into plain text; decode
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Derived Formsdecipherable, adjectivedecipherability, noundecipherer, noundecipherment, 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

Word Origin and History for decipherment



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

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper