1. a system for communication by telegraph, heliograph, etc., in which long and short sounds, light flashes, etc., are used to symbolize the content of a message: Morse code.
  2. a system used for brevity or secrecy of communication, in which arbitrarily chosen words, letters, or symbols are assigned definite meanings.
  3. any set of standards set forth and enforced by a local government agency for the protection of public safety, health, etc., as in the structural safety of buildings (building code), health requirements for plumbing, ventilation, etc. (sanitary code or health code), and the specifications for fire escapes or exits (fire code).
  4. a systematically arranged collection or compendium of laws, rules, or regulations.
  5. any authoritative, general, systematic, and written statement of the legal rules and principles applicable in a given legal order to one or more broad areas of life.
  6. a word, letter, number, or other symbol used in a code system to mark, represent, or identify something: The code on the label shows the date of manufacture.
  7. Digital Technology.
    1. a set of symbols that can be interpreted by a computer or piece of software: binary code; Java code; ASCII code.
    2. the symbolic arrangement of statements or instructions in a computer program, or the set of instructions in such a program: That program took 3000 lines of code.

  8. any system or collection of rules and regulations: a gentleman’s code of behavior.
  9. Medicine/Medical. a directive or alert to a hospital team assigned to emergency resuscitation of patients.
  10. Genetics. genetic code.
  11. Linguistics.
    1. the system of rules shared by the participants in an act of communication, making possible the transmission and interpretation of messages.
    2. (in sociolinguistic theory) one of two distinct styles of language use that differ in degree of explicitness and are sometimes thought to be correlated with differences in social class.Compare elaborated code, restricted code.

verb (used with object), cod·ed, cod·ing.

  1. to translate (a message) into a code; encode.
  2. to categorize or identify by assigning a code to: All specimens were coded prior to the test.
  3. to arrange or enter (laws or statutes) in a code.
  4. Digital Technology. to write code for (a computer program or application) (often followed by up): Hire a programmer to code up a website for you.

verb (used without object), cod·ed, cod·ing.

  1. Genetics. to specify the amino acid sequence of a protein by the sequence of nucleotides comprising the gene for that protein: a gene that codes for the production of insulin.
  2. Digital Technology. to write computer code.


  1. a system of letters or symbols, and rules for their association by means of which information can be represented or communicated for reasons of secrecy, brevity, etcbinary code; Morse code See also genetic code
  2. a message in code
  3. a symbol used in a code
  4. a conventionalized set of principles, rules, or expectationsa code of behaviour
  5. a system of letters or digits used for identification or selection purposes

verb (tr)

  1. to translate, transmit, or arrange into a code

c.1300, “systematic compilation of laws,” from Old French code “system of laws, law-book” (13c.), from Latin codex, earlier caudex “book, book of laws,” literally “tree trunk,” hence, book made up of wooden tablets covered with wax for writing. Meaning “cipher” (the sense in secret code) is from 1808.


1815, from code (n.). Specifically in the computer sense from 1947. Related: Coded; coding.

  1. A system of signals used to represent letters or numbers in transmitting messages.
  2. The instructions in a computer program. Instructions written by a programmer in a programming language are often called source code. Instructions that have been converted into machine language that the computer understands are called machine code or executable code. See also programming language.

A series of instructions designed to be fed into a computer.

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