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decipher

[dih-sahy-fer]
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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

Synonyms

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2. comprehend, solve, unravel, explain.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for undecipherable

Historical Examples

  • "And a priest, too, I suppose," said Dalroy in an undecipherable manner.

    The Wisdom of Father Brown

    G. K. Chesterton

  • There was no mark or initials, save an undecipherable monogram.

    A Little Girl in Old Detroit

    Amanda Minnie Douglas

  • Captain, will you tell me what your undecipherable document contained?

  • He stopped, for the undecipherable look had strengthened suddenly.

    The Bright Messenger

    Algernon Blackwood

  • The inscriptions on the oldest tombstones are undecipherable.

    The Colonial Cavalier

    Maud Wilder Goodwin


British Dictionary definitions for undecipherable

decipher

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 undecipherable

adj.

1758, from un- (1) "not" + decipherable (see decipher).

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decipher

v.

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