dictate

verb
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.

dictate

noun
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

Keep scrolling for more

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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The regional ecology dictates where and how hubs grow; city centers move inland, away from rising seas. National Geographic, "Designing to scale: Resilient regions," 12 June 2019 The 24-year-old was unplayable as Germany obliterated their opponents 8-0, dictating the play from his deep-lying role as his country also kept their 100% qualifying record intact. SI.com, "FIFA 19 Ultimate Team: Sergio Ramos, Joshua Kimmich & Jordan Pickford Star in International TOTW 39," 12 June 2019 In 1912, President William Howard Taft signed an act dictating the stars' pattern, with President Dwight D. Eisenhower tweaking the arrangement to provide for the addition of Hawaii and Alaska to the United States. Brenna Williams, CNN, "#TBT: The origin of Flag Day, America's lesser-known patriotic holiday," 14 June 2018 This is our [expletive] city, and nobody gonna dictate our freedom. Chelsea Sheasley, The Christian Science Monitor, "Take me outside the ball game," 13 June 2018 Why must royal family tradition apparently dictate that its postpartum mothers present themselves this way, and so swiftly post-birth at that? Michelle Ruiz, Vogue, "Amy Schumer’s Post-Pregnancy Realness Is a Necessary Gift," 13 May 2019 The four included scenarios dictate which monsters are included, what events are seeded in the deck, and your overall purpose of play. Charlie Theel, Ars Technica, "Arkham Horror Third Edition: The classic Lovecraft adventure returns," 24 Nov. 2018 In traditional airplanes, the direction of the engines dictate the direction of the aircraft. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "China's New Upgrade Makes Its Fighter Jets Wildly Maneuverable," 7 Nov. 2018 The balls, acting as a sort of formwork, dictate where the plastic pieces can and cannot go. Liz Stinson, Curbed, "Robots built this wild plastic pavilion," 28 Sep. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The most notable: The warmth of the ensemble’s actors, who as the show dictates must also play instruments while portraying the characters that surround Guy and Girl’s blossoming relationship. Matthew J. Palm, orlandosentinel.com, "Mad Cow’s ‘Once’ hits the heart but doesn’t quite grab the soul | Review," 9 June 2019 As fashion tradition dictates, the Met Gala red carpet takes places on the first Monday in May, which is May 6 this year. Sara Delgado, Teen Vogue, "Fans Want BTS to Perform at Met Gala 2019," 3 Apr. 2019 This sounds like higher tariffs for countries that ignore U.S. dictates on climate policy. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Elizabeth Warren Dives In," 31 Dec. 2018 That carries the expectation of loyalty — something that Trump is known to expect from everyone, over and above the dictates of law and policy. Dara Lind, Vox, "John Roberts is mad at Trump for attacking an “Obama judge”," 21 Nov. 2018 Its dodgy, outsider status perhaps permitted greater risks and leaps of faith than were available to nonsurgical physicians, who still found themselves making inchworm progress from the dictates of Hippocrates and Galen. Laura Kolbe, WSJ, "‘Under the Knife’ Review: The Kindest Cuts," 14 Nov. 2018 Trump’s Orwellian dictate notwithstanding, there was plenty happening in plain sight last week. Lynn Yaeger, Vogue, "The Week in Washington: In Trump’s White House, It’s 1984," 29 July 2018 When her relationship with Harry became serious the following year, Meghan deleted all of her social media platforms as royal protocol dictates, but the picture still features her old Twitter account handle in the caption. Lucy Wood, Marie Claire, "Remember That Time Meghan Markle Vacationed with Eddie Redmayne in 2015?," 13 Nov. 2018 Preckwinkle, who lives in Hyde Park, where politicians have long declared themselves independent from party dictates, has a working relationship with Garcia, who serves as her County Board floor leader. Hal Dardick, chicagotribune.com, "Toni Preckwinkle expected to ascend to Cook County Democratic chairman today," 18 Apr. 2018

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.

See More

First Known Use of dictate

Verb

1577, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

Noun

1582, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for dictate

Verb

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.

Noun

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about dictate

Statistics for dictate

Last Updated

16 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for dictate

The first known use of dictate was in 1577

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for dictate

dictate

verb

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

dictate

noun

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

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

dictate

verb
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.

dictate

noun

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.

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on dictate

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with dictate

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for dictate

Spanish Central: Translation of dictate

Nglish: Translation of dictate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of dictate for Arabic Speakers

Comments on dictate

What made you want to look up dictate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

incapable of being surmounted or overcome

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words for Summer: A Quiz

  • a closeup of a sunflower
  • Which of the following words means “of or relating to summer”?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!