dic·​tate | \ ˈdik-ˌtāt How to pronounce dictate (audio) , dik-ˈtāt How to pronounce dictate (audio) \
dictated; dictating

Definition of dictate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to utter words to be transcribed : to give dictation dictate for the stenographer
2 : to speak or act domineeringly : prescribe resents being dictated to

transitive verb

1 : to speak or read for a person to transcribe or for a machine to record dictating a letter to her secretary
2a : to issue as an order
b : to impose, pronounce, or specify authoritatively dictate the terms of surrender … the league will dictate policy for all teams …— Alex Yannis
c : to require or determine necessarily injuries dictated the choice of players The weather will dictate how long we stay.


dic·​tate | \ ˈdik-ˌtāt How to pronounce dictate (audio) \

Definition of dictate (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : an authoritative rule, prescription, or injunction the dictates of the party
b : a ruling principle according to the dictates of your conscience
2 : a command by one in authority papal dictates

Examples of dictate in a Sentence

Verb She's dictating a letter to her secretary. They insisted on being able to dictate the terms of surrender. Tradition dictates that the youngest member should go first. The basket's function dictates its size and shape. Noun a starchily worded dictate from on high concerning the company's dress code
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Trends will help dictate the path ahead for policymakers like the Federal Reserve. Julia Horowitz, CNN, 19 July 2022 All are led by tenants, who help dictate how the unions are organized and run. Bailey Loosemore, The Courier-Journal, 5 July 2022 The genes a child inherits from their parents help dictate some innate qualities later in life, depending on what genes, from which parent, are dominant or recessive. Jon Michail, Forbes, 23 May 2022 The Indiana primary election May 3 is almost here, and up and down the ballot there are crucial races that could help dictate the direction of Indiana and local governments. Kaitlin Lange, The Indianapolis Star, 26 Apr. 2022 Faludi is wary of any force that would dictate what women do with their bodies, and alert to the harm such dictates can inflict. Molly Fischer, The New Yorker, 21 July 2022 It’s the people going up the elevator each day, or putting on a waitress uniform, or affixing airline wings to their lapels that dictate whether a business succeeds or fails. John Tamny, Forbes, 3 July 2022 Courts have for decades interpreted that language to bar state laws that dictate what health plans can and cannot cover. Reuters, NBC News, 27 June 2022 Some also suggest that straight establishments tend to be corporate owned and as a result have to follow certain rules, which dictate how much alcohol can be given to customers. John-john Williams Iv, Baltimore Sun, 23 June 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Clear rights regarding interference protection can provide incentives for innovation and collaboration among spectrum users in a way that avoids regulatory dictate. Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, 3 Mar. 2022 In terms of Hodges’s dictate for full restoration, precedent plays a key role in acts of curatorial omission or commission. Randal Doane, Harper’s Magazine , 7 Dec. 2021 The principal went on to note that ahead of the school year, the Illinois superintendent of schools sent a letter to each district threatening schools that did not enforce compliance with the dictate. Breck Dumas, Fox News, 11 Sep. 2021 Their litany of error serves as a reminder of the risks of letting horse-race political coverage dictate coverage of the pandemic. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 10 Aug. 2021 Their work has exposed not only how deep our lines of dependence are but how the inequities of class, race, and industry dictate who may stay inside and who might have no choice but to venture outdoors. Françoise Mouly, The New Yorker, 9 Aug. 2021 Her mandate was sounding less like the inspiration of a concerned partner, and more like the dictate of a prison guard. San Diego Union-Tribune, 8 Aug. 2021 Supply and demand dictate airfare -- airlines can't always raise fares to cover costs. Chris Isidore, CNN, 27 July 2021 But one dictate received special attention from commentators: the continuation of a Trump-era shift toward facilitating large-scale drug importation from Canada, with Biden instructing the FDA to work with states to implement appropriate plans. Natalie Shure, The New Republic, 19 July 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'dictate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of dictate


1577, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1


1582, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for dictate


borrowed from Latin dictātus, past participle of dictāre "to say repeatedly, speak aloud words to be transcribed by another, issue as an order," frequentative of dīcere "to talk, speak, say, utter" — more at diction

Note: See note at dictator.


borrowed from Medieval Latin dictātum "something commanded" (Latin, in plural dictāta "lessons to be transcribed"), noun derivative from neuter of Latin dictātus, past participle of dictāre "to say repeatedly, say aloud words to be transcribed by another, issue as an order" — more at dictate entry 1

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The first known use of dictate was in 1577

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Last Updated

15 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Dictate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dictate. Accessed 16 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for dictate


dic·​tate | \ ˈdik-ˌtāt How to pronounce dictate (audio) \
dictated; dictating

Kids Definition of dictate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to speak or read for someone else to write down or for a machine to record dictate a letter
2 : to say or state with authority : order You can't dictate what I can do.
3 : to make necessary Tradition dictates that we go first.



Kids Definition of dictate (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : an order or direction given with authority : command
2 : a guiding rule or principle She ignores the dictates of fashion.

More from Merriam-Webster on dictate

Nglish: Translation of dictate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of dictate for Arabic Speakers


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