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 Judges set sentence ranges (like three to eight years) that dictate when an offender can be eligible for parole. Kevin Grasha, Cincinnati.com, "Hamilton County judge: Reagan Tokes Act is unconstitutional, disregards 'a judge's power'," 27 Nov. 2019 Each has unique circumstances that dictate the right response. Jaclyn Schildkraut, The Conversation, "Do lockdown drills do any good?," 22 Nov. 2019 No surprise there: His father, Loudon Wainwright III, was a singer-songwriter/folkie whose narrative approach was always off center compared to the earnestness that typically dictates the form. Andrew Dansby, Houston Chronicle, "Rufus Wainwright acknowledges time, defies time at Heights Theater," 22 Nov. 2019 City rules that dictate how far dispensaries must be from schools have presented a problem in the zoning fight. Lorraine Longhi, azcentral, "A downtown Scottsdale medical marijuana dispensary halted, but state investigation and lawsuit may loom," 13 Nov. 2019 Holguín receives this information as one of the attorneys tasked with monitoring the government's adherence to the Flores agreement, a high-profile court settlement which dictates how immigrant children should be treated while detained. Blake Ellis And Melanie Hicken, CNN, "Major hotels break promises on allowing feds to detain immigrants in their rooms," 5 Nov. 2019 By 1784, Parliament had set up an oversight board that increasingly dictated the company’s political affairs. Iain Murray, National Review, "The Rise of the East India Company Is Not a Cautionary Tale about Corporate Power," 2 Nov. 2019 Those things are huge and having guys that can dictate that – with a punter and the kickoff guys – is vital. Evan Dudley, al, "UAB’s Kyle Greenwell returning home to face Vols," 1 Nov. 2019 Despite centuries of effort, mathematicians have been unable to identify characteristics that dictate scissors congruence for most higher-dimensional shapes. Quanta Magazine, "Mathematicians Cut Apart Shapes to Find Pieces of Equations," 31 Oct. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun 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 So too are certain studio blockbuster franchises, especially when time travel is involved: Unbound by the dictates of narrative logic, even a flailing action-movie cycle can rewrite and regenerate itself in perpetuity. Los Angeles Times, "Review: ‘Dark Fate’ is the the best ‘Terminator’ sequel in over 20 years," 22 Oct. 2019 What would Fred Rogers—Mister Rogers—have made of El Paso and Dayton, of mass murder committed to fulfill the dictates of an 8chan manifesto? Tom Junod, The Atlantic, "What Would Mister Rogers Do?," 7 Nov. 2019 Cal Athletics closely follows the dictates of a comprehensive policy on concussion management. Erin Allday, SFChronicle.com, "Former UC Berkeley cheerleader claims she was forced to participate with concussions," 3 Oct. 2019 An employee is eligible for benefits and pay guarantees, plus union membership, but also is subject to the employer’s dictates. Los Angeles Times, "California’s employment law was rewritten. Many independent contractors aren’t thrilled," 23 Sep. 2019 The Dutch international dictates the play from the base of the midfield and was a crucial player behind Ajax’s success in the Champions League last year. SI.com, "Barcelona: Rating All of La Blaugrana's 2019 Summer Signings," 4 Sep. 2019 But, like the followers of Jim Jones, they are taught to unquestioningly follow their leaders, a Governing Body of eight men in New York, no matter the dictates. Amber Scorah, BostonGlobe.com, "Losing my religion," 8 Aug. 2019 The death knell for the Verizon-Tumblr union came in fall 2018, when Tumblr, following the dictates of Apple’s content guidelines for the Apple Store, banned all adult content from the site. Aja Romano, Vox, "WordPress could give Tumblr the thing it needs most: stability," 13 Aug. 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

1 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Dictate.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dictating. Accessed 5 December 2019.

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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

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