dis·​pen·​sa·​tion | \ ˌdi-spən-ˈsā-shən How to pronounce dispensation (audio) , -ˌspen-\

Definition of dispensation

1a : a general state or ordering of things specifically : a system of revealed (see reveal entry 1 sense 1) commands and promises regulating human affairs a privilege maintained under the new dispensation
b : a particular arrangement or provision especially of providence or nature involving special dispensation by the Church
2a : an exemption from a law or from an impediment, vow, or oath may be granted a dispensation from the rule
b : a formal authorization requested a dispensation to form another lodge
3a : the act of dispensing the dispensation of medication
b : something dispensed or distributed … one of the most remarkable cultural dispensations in the country's history, the paperback book.— T. E. Cooney

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Other Words from dispensation

dispensational \ ˌdi-​spən-​ˈsā-​shnəl How to pronounce dispensational (audio) , -​ˌspen-​ , -​shə-​nᵊl \ adjective

Examples of dispensation in a Sentence

The priest asked for dispensation from his vows. The state gave the town a special dispensation, allowing it to ignore the law in this case.

Recent Examples on the Web

Under the new dispensation ethnic elites have revived their demands for more autonomy. The Economist, "Ethnic separatists are challenging Ethiopia’s unity," 25 July 2019 To not probate the estate and not pay the taxes shouldn’t be a reason for special dispensation. Lizzie Presser, ProPublica, "The Reels Brothers Spent Eight Years in Jail for Refusing to Leave It.," 15 July 2019 Under the current political dispensation more land has been opened to development, more environment-protecting regulations relaxed, more funds cut. Gena Steffens, Smithsonian, "The Snakes That Ate Florida," 11 July 2019 Liberals say democracy is rigged when corporations receive tax dispensations. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Lyft and the Left," 19 Feb. 2019 This dispensation helps drive the trade winds westward the better to feed the monsoon as the intertropical convergence zone sweeps north over India. The Economist, "The South Asian monsoon, past, present and future," 27 June 2019 The dispensations are many—training or volunteering could count toward the 20 hours, and the bill includes money for education and training for anyone who wants to improve his job prospects. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "The GOP’s Food-Stamp Failure," 9 Dec. 2018 The relationship of essayist to reader has long been that of equal to equal, adult to adult, no condescension exercised, no special dispensations asked. Joseph Epstein, WSJ, "‘Essayism’ Review: Tell Me a Bit (Less) About Yourself," 30 Nov. 2018 The measure excuses anyone caring for a young child or going to school, among other dispensations. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Making America Work Again," 3 Aug. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'dispensation.' 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 dispensation

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for dispensation

see dispense

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Statistics for dispensation

Last Updated

16 Aug 2019

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Time Traveler for dispensation

The first known use of dispensation was in the 14th century

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English Language Learners Definition of dispensation

: permission to break a law or an official promise you have made : release from a rule, vow, or oath
: an act of providing something to people


dis·​pen·​sa·​tion | \ ˌdis-pən-ˈsā-shən, -ˌpen- How to pronounce dispensation (audio) \

Medical Definition of dispensation

: the act of dispensing the dispensation of medicines

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Comments on dispensation

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


one from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

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