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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 undecipherable
  • It's too irrelevant and undecipherable to the vast majority of people.
  • Early handwriting varies in legibility and is sometimes undecipherable.
  • Electronic files must be rendered unreadable, undecipherable, and unrecoverable.
  • Agencies should be careful in the use of these editing tools to ensure that redacted text is absolutely undecipherable.
  • Veterans and their families must not be overburdened by useless paperwork and redundant, undecipherable requests for information.
  • It was completely undecipherable to commission members.
  • Including actual data comparisons in a single letter would result in the letter being undecipherable.
British Dictionary definitions for undecipherable


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 undecipherable

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



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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