verb (used with object)

  1. to give or provide the meaning of; explain; explicate; elucidate: to interpret the hidden meaning of a parable.
  2. to construe or understand in a particular way: to interpret a reply as favorable.
  3. to bring out the meaning of (a dramatic work, music, etc.) by performance or execution.
  4. to perform or render (a song, role in a play, etc.) according to one’s own understanding or sensitivity: The actor interpreted Lear as a weak, pitiful old man.
  5. to translate orally.
  6. Computers.
    1. to use an interpreter to transform (a program written in a high-level language) into a sequence of machine actions, one statement at a time, executing each statement immediately before going on to transform the next one.
    2. to read (the patterns of holes in punched cards) with an interpreter, printing the interpreted data on the same cards so that they can be read more conveniently by people.

    See also interpreter(def 3).

verb (used without object)

  1. to translate what is said in a foreign language.
  2. to explain something; give an explanation.

verb (tr)

  1. to interpret (an idea, etc) in a new or different way


  1. (tr) to clarify or explain the meaning of; elucidate
  2. (tr) to construe the significance or intention ofto interpret a smile as an invitation
  3. (tr) to convey or represent the spirit or meaning of (a poem, song, etc) in performance
  4. (intr) to act as an interpreter; translate orally

late 14c., from Old French interpreter (13c.) and directly from Latin interpretari “explain, expound, understand,” from interpres “agent, translator,” from inter- (see inter-) + second element of uncertain origin, perhaps related to Sanskrit prath- “to spread abroad,” PIE *per- (5) “to traffic in, sell” (see pornography). Related: Interpreted; interpreting.

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