distribute, dispense, divide, deal, dole out mean to give out, usually in shares, to each member of a group. distribute implies an apportioning by separation of something into parts, units, or amounts <distributed food to the needy>. dispense suggests the giving of a carefully weighed or measured portion to each of a group according to due or need <dispensed wisdom to the students>. divide stresses the separation of a whole into parts and implies that the parts are equal <three charitable groups divided the proceeds>. deal emphasizes the allotment of something piece by piece <deal out equipment and supplies>. dole out implies a carefully measured portion of something that is often in short supply <doled out what little food there was>.