In a scientific context, I want to use the word "encode" in such a way as

  • "The object A encodes the object B.", or
  • "The object A encoding the object B is defined by ...".

By this sentence, I am trying to say that the information of B is embedded in A. Is it possible to use "encode" in this way? I think that "B is encoded in A." is OK but I am not sure if this usage is OK, too.

Thanks in advance.


In my case, A is a gate operation or a logical circuit in a computer (in fact, a quantum computer), and B is a mathematical function.

  • 2
    Normally, encode is a causative verb, so you'd say the algorithm encodes the text. But you can also use it in discussing substitution codes, like ROT13 uses the ASCII character 13 places away from a given ASCII alphabetic character to encode that character. Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 1:12
  • 1
    Have you tried searcing the Web, Google Books, etc.? It's often not hard to find examples of how words are used. Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 3:38
  • An object does not encode, unless it is a machine, or an abstract function. Did you mean "contains"? Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 8:10
  • Why do you want to do this? What's wrong with "B is encoded in A" or "A is an encoding of B"?
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 9:43
  • Object A is a kind of an abstract function (an operation), but "contain" would work for me. Thank you. I wanted to use this kind of expression because I need to write a sentence whose subject is A in a compact form, like "A containing the information of B is defined by ..., and implemented by ...".
    – Yutaro
    Commented Jul 15, 2022 at 0:20

1 Answer 1


The problem with answering your question correctly is that you haven't defined what "A" and "B" are in your examples.

By this sentence, I am trying to say that the information of B is embedded in A.

Sheet music encodes some musical events, and a string of bytes (together with a certain character table, e.g. ASCII) encodes some text, but if you enclose a letter in a biography, this biography doesn't "encode" the letter.

One of the prerequisites of encoding is that a certain translation process takes place: in case of text encoding, this could be the ASCII table, which translates (8-bit) numbers to characters and vice versa. In case of a ROT13, cipher "A" encodes "N", "B" encodes "O", and so on.

The relationship between encoded data and encoding data doesn't need to be 1:1 either. Compression algorithms (both lossless and lossy, like TIFF, ones) are also a form of encoding.

---- EDIT: -----

Given the further context you provided in your edit: yes, you could use "encode" in this case, because the mentioned "translation" - that is, doing something by means of doing something else - is in fact taking place: you operate a gate and, by doing that, calculate a mathematical function.

  • Its certainly context related. For instance, "the JPEG file format encodes images" vs "this JPEG contains encoded image data." Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 15:13
  • Thank you for your answer. Sorry that my question was too vague. In my case, "A" is a gate operation (or a logic circuit) in a computer (in fact, a quantum computer), and "B" is a mathematical function.
    – Yutaro
    Commented Jul 15, 2022 at 0:10
  • Thank you, bakunin, for the additional answer. It helped me a lot!
    – Yutaro
    Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 22:49

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