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

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Fox News contributor Sarah Sanders thinks allowing Congress to dictate President Trump's foreign policy is more than just a bad idea. Dominick Mastrangelo, Washington Examiner, "'Last thing we want to do': Sarah Sanders condemns Democratic war powers resolution," 9 Jan. 2020 The Under has hit in four straight for the Mountaineers, and their D will dictate the play. Joe Williams, USA TODAY Sportsbook Wire, "West Virginia vs. Ohio State odds, picks and best bets," 29 Dec. 2019 The Razorbacks have many positions of need after back-to-back 2-10 seasons and ongoing attrition, and Pittman said the ongoing evaluations of the roster will dictate the recruiting game plan in the coming days. Tom Murphy, Arkansas Online, "Seven to build on: Pittman plots best way to fill out first class," 19 Dec. 2019 Yet scientists have speculated for years about the possibility that phonons might impart heat across a vacuum, enamored by the mind-boggling fact that quantum mechanics dictates space can never be truly empty. Charles Q. Choi, Scientific American, "Space Heater: Scientists Find New Way to Transfer Energy Through a Vacuum," 11 Dec. 2019 That, too, is what President Woodrow Wilson’s call for self-determination dictated. John Broich, The Conversation, "Why there is no Kurdish nation," 6 Nov. 2019 In the late 1960s, scientists realized that DNA could carry other information if researchers could dictate the bases’ order and machines could read that order. Jonathon Keats, Discover Magazine, "Why DNA Might Be the Data Storage Solution of the Future," 10 Oct. 2019 And though jail procedures should have dictated that Epstein be placed with a cellmate and checked on by guards every half-hour, those policies were not followed in Epstein’s case, the Times reports. Anna North, Vox, "What happens next in the legal cases involving Jeffrey Epstein," 13 Aug. 2019 Find ways to bring others into agreement with you, but don't dictate terms. Tribune Content Agency, oregonlive.com, "Horoscope for Aug. 10, 2019: Happy birthday Rosanna Arquette; Gemini, go out and enjoy the summer sun," 10 Aug. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Impeachment is being reinvented as way of presidential life that will supposedly impale Trump one day or at least constrain him, as occasional additional writs are added on, as the polls, media, and Democratic fancy dictate. Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, "Impeachment Fallouts," 31 Dec. 2019 The current crisis began in February, when Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam introduced an extradition bill that would allowed the territory’s citizens to be sent for trial in China where courts are subject to Communist Party dictates. Trudy Rubin, Twin Cities, "Trudy Rubin: Hong Kong crisis has become a crucial test of future US-China relations," 24 Nov. 2019 City zoning dictates marijuana operations need to be at least 500 feet from schools of all kinds — including colleges — daycare facilities, community centers, neighborhood recreation facilities, athletic fields, parks and public housing. Aubrey Wieber, Anchorage Daily News, "Regulations helped push marijuana shops into a few Anchorage neighborhoods. Now, there are worries over ‘green light’ districts.," 17 Nov. 2019 One of his most talented forwards struggled under the dictates, transferred to Colorado State and became player of the year in the rival Western Athletic Conference. Kurt Streeter, New York Times, "The Warriors’ 70-Year-Old Truth-Teller," 28 Feb. 2018 The true objective of red-pill stimulation is release from the dictates of media influence, especially the media whose real goal is political control. Armond White, National Review, "Is The Matrix the Conservative’s Star Wars?," 30 Aug. 2019 For many long-time observers of China, the NBA saga is a perfect storm that’s finally bringing to the forefront of American discourse the problem of China’s attempts to bully countries and companies that do not bend to its dictates. Isabella Steger, Quartz, "The NBA may have just thrown Hong Kong’s protesters a new lifeline," 10 Oct. 2019 Now, here was the president of the United States, traditional champion of swashbuckling capitalism, ordering American companies to heed his dictates. Peter S. Goodman, New York Times, "Trump Can Battle China or Expand the Economy. He Can’t Do Both.," 26 Aug. 2019 Most of all, Boseman smoothly presides over the movie with poise and command, a fine movie star finally unencumbered by both the dictates of Marvel and the pressures of the biopic. Jake Coyle, Detroit Free Press, "Review: ‘21 Bridges’ puts New York on lockdown," 22 Nov. 2019

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.

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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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Learn More about dictate

Time Traveler for dictate

Time Traveler

The first known use of dictate was in 1577

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Statistics for dictate

Last Updated

13 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Dictate.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dictate. Accessed 17 January 2020.

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More Definitions for dictate


How to pronounce dictate (audio) How to pronounce dictate (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of dictate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to speak or read (something) to a person who writes it down or to a machine that records it
: to say or state (something) with authority or power
: to make (something) necessary


How to pronounce dictate (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of dictate (Entry 2 of 2)

: an order or direction given with authority
: a rule or principle that guides something (such as an activity or a person's behavior)


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.

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More from Merriam-Webster on dictate

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for dictate

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with dictate

Spanish Central: Translation of dictate

Nglish: Translation of dictate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of dictate for Arabic Speakers

Comments on dictate

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a plan in which a last survivor takes all

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