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[dih-sahy-fer] /dɪˈsaɪ fər/
verb (used with object)
to make out the meaning of (poor or partially obliterated writing, etc.):
to decipher a hastily scribbled note.
to discover the meaning of (anything obscure or difficult to trace or understand):
to decipher hieroglyphics.
to interpret by the use of a key, as something written in cipher:
to decipher a secret message.
Obsolete. to depict; portray.
Origin of decipher
1520-30; translation of Middle French déchiffrer. See de-, cipher
Related forms
decipherable, adjective
decipherability, noun
decipherer, noun
decipherment, noun
undecipherable, adjective
undecipherably, adverb
undeciphered, adjective
2. comprehend, solve, unravel, explain. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for deciphered
  • In the absence of a system of writing, the mind does not leave an easily deciphered record of itself.
  • Four years on, this bizarre circuit has still not been completely deciphered.
  • They employed a sort of writing that has been deciphered, and their language is now known.
  • People think if you have deciphered the genome of humans that you can change everything.
  • She carefully scanned the envelope, deciphered a coded message from her lover, then refused to accept the mail.
  • Each clue, when deciphered, tells a piece of the story of our new race.
  • But exactly how these chemical messages are deciphered was not well understood.
  • After the human code was deciphered, the genomes of everything from tumors to zebra finches have followed.
  • History rarely offers itself in lessons clear enough to be deciphered at a time when their message still applies.
  • Some have been conclusively deciphered, others have not.
British Dictionary definitions for deciphered


verb (transitive)
to determine the meaning of (something obscure or illegible)
to convert from code into plain text; decode
Derived Forms
decipherable, adjective
decipherability, noun
decipherer, noun
decipherment, 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
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Word Origin and History for deciphered



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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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