Definition of code in English:

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Pronunciation: /kəʊd/


1A system of words, letters, figures, or symbols used to represent others, especially for the purposes of secrecy: the Americans cracked their diplomatic code [mass noun]: messages written in code
More example sentences
  • The spread of mobile telephones and even the use of secret words or codes show that secrecy is essential to close deals or pass on information.
  • She played a key role in the recruitment and briefing of agents, and became an expert writer of letters in code.
  • These include the letters, written in code, which are said to make clear she was in favour of inflicting pain on her enemies.
cipher, secret language, secret writing, set of symbols, key, hieroglyphics;
coded message, cryptogram
rare cryptograph
1.1A phrase or concept used to represent another in an indirect way: researching ‘the family’ is usually a code for studying women
More example sentences
  • I recognise - more than the words, the codes and silences - the force of all the things unsaid.
  • Now, I wondered if he had been sending me code, offering me a front-row seat to some action.
  • PC is essentially an etiquette, a series of codes by which we are supposed to live our lives.
1.2A series of letters, numbers, or symbols assigned to something for the purposes of classification or identification: each box had a label with the code SC 90
More example sentences
  • We are seeing boats coming in from all over the world with manufacturer identification codes assigned by their country of origin.
  • Currently, companies are the smallest army element to be routinely assigned unit identification codes.
  • The officer turned to face a terminal, inserting an identicard and entering a series of codes.
1.3 short for dialling code. I was given the number, but not the code for Guildford
2 [mass noun] Computing Program instructions: assembly code
More example sentences
  • The code then downloads spyware programs to surfers' PCs, including one that steals credit card numbers and other forms of financial information.
  • The answer is 609,000 and this is the number of lines of code in the software for the computers and avionics systems.
  • Using this drag-and-drop methodology, users can create program code with minimal user input or understanding.
3A systematic collection of laws or statutes: a revision of the penal code
More example sentences
  • Under the doctrine of breach of statutory duty some regulatory codes may give rise to civil liability when breached.
  • This is itself a judicial interpolation into the statutory code.
  • The penal code does not criminalize such conduct, and would be clearly unconstitutional if it did.
law, laws, body of law, rules, regulations, constitution, system, charter, canon, jurisprudence
3.1A set of conventions or moral principles governing behaviour in a particular sphere: a strict dress code a stern code of honour
More example sentences
  • To be worthy of that love, he adopted a strict code of moral conduct.
  • The actors of today are simply too pretty and too vacant to depict the men and women of sterner days and stricter moral codes.
  • The rigid social, moral and behavioural codes imposed by the group included severe restrictions on women's freedom of movement, expression and association.
set of principles, set of standards, set of customs;
manners, ethics, morals;
morality, convention, accepted behaviour, etiquette, protocol


[with object]
1Convert (the words of a message) into a code so as to convey a secret meaning: only Mitch knew how to read the message—even the name was coded
More example sentences
  • Thus the hats contain a message coded in the manner in which they are worn.
  • The package enables audio traffic - such as a phone conversation - to be coded as data, sent down an internet connection and then decoded at the other end.
  • Given that the messages are claimed to be coded, it would seem that network editing is unlikely to pick them out.
1.1Express the meaning of (a statement) in an indirect way: (as adjective coded) journalists made coded allusions to his deficiencies
More example sentences
  • This visual narrative appears to have incorporated other animal stories as well as interjected some coded political statements.
  • He has removed any potential threat of even coded criticism from the foreign secretary by removing him from his post.
  • So any seasoned interpreter immediately understood that ‘Curriculum for Excellence’ was coded language for tat and dumbing-down.
1.2Assign a code to (something) for purposes of classification or identification: she coded the samples and sent them for dissection
More example sentences
  • Instruments were coded with an identification number to track and follow up with non respondents.
  • All sections were coded to prevent identification of the probe type or setting used.
  • Type and severity of maltreatment were coded using the maltreatment classification system developed by Barnett et al.
2Write code for (a computer program): most developers code C + + like C [no object]: I no longer actively code in PHP
More example sentences
  • When we code a computer program, we do not rewrite the entire thing every time something fails to work.
  • When you think of high technology, you probably imagine a software engineer sitting behind a computer, coding some new program.
  • I didn't find it a difficult exam, but then I've been coding Windows Forms since Visual Basic 4 back in 1997.
3 [no object] (code for) Biochemistry Be the genetic code for (an amino acid or protein): genes that code for human growth hormone
More example sentences
  • This gene codes for a protein which is 513 amino acids in length.
  • Because of their possibly unusual evolution, genes coding for ribosomal proteins were excluded from the analysis.
  • Mutations in genes coding for these proteins may be tolerated in an otherwise wild-type cell through the presence of one or more checkpoint pathways.
3.1Be the genetic determiner of (a characteristic): one pair of homologous chromosomes codes for eye colour
More example sentences
  • The population will have ‘responded’ and become ‘adapted,’ but only because the genetic information coding for waxier cuticles and deeper roots was already present.
  • The loss of eye function is the result of a ‘downhill’ mutational change, a corruption or loss of the genetic information coding for eye manufacture.
  • It had nothing to do with demonstrating how the genetic information coding for feathers could have arisen in the imagined reptilian ancestors of birds.


bring something up to code

North American Renovate or update an old building in line with the latest building regulations: the wiring will be brought up to code
More example sentences
  • In 1905, the architect bought the building on Orchard Street and included these improvements when he brought it up to code.
  • The gallery, which was formerly a storefront, had to undergo a few building improvements to bring it up to code.
  • Workers replaced the windows, cleaned the brick and brought the building up to code with ramps and elevators.



Pronunciation: /ˈkəʊdə/
Example sentences
  • An important part of piloting the coding scheme will be testing for consistency between coders and, if time permits, intra-coder reliability.
  • Traditional programming requires a few coders to commit a lot of time and effort, for which they will reasonably expect to be paid.
  • To hit the broadest range of potential coders, you've got to show them the vast range of what programming can allow you to do.


Middle English: via Old French from Latin codex, codic- (see codex). The term originally denoted a systematic collection of statutes made by Justinian or another of the later Roman emperors; compare with sense 3 of the noun (mid 18th century), the earliest modern sense.

  • This was originally a term for a system of laws; the sense ‘secret writing’ developed in the early 19th century. It comes from Latin codex, which developed from a simple meaning of a ‘a block of wood’, to ‘a block split into leaves or tablets’ thus ‘a book’. The related term codicil (Late Middle English) is from Latin codicillus, a diminutive of codex, and thus applies to a ‘small’ part of a legal document.

Words that rhyme with code

abode, bestrode, bode, commode, corrode, download, encode, erode, explode, forebode, goad, implode, load, lode, middle-of-the-road, mode, node, ode, offload, outrode, road, rode, sarod, Spode, strode, toad, upload, woad

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: code

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