dis·pense | \ di-ˈspen(t)s \
dispensed; dispensing

Definition of dispense 

transitive verb

1a : to divide and share out according to a plan : to deal out in portions dispense food among the needy

b : administer dispense justice

2 : to exempt from a law or release from a vow, oath, or impediment : to give dispensation (see dispensation sense 2a) to : exempt may dispense students from this requirement

3 : to prepare and distribute (medication) dispensing pills to their patients

intransitive verb

archaic : to grant dispensation

dispense with

1 : to set aside : discard dispensing with the usual introduction

2 : to do without could dispense with such a large staff

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Choose the Right Synonym for dispense

distribute, dispense, divide, deal, dole out mean to give out, usually in shares, to each member of a group. distribute implies an apportioning by separation of something into parts, units, or amounts. distributed food to the needy dispense suggests the giving of a carefully weighed or measured portion to each of a group according to due or need. dispensed wisdom to the students divide stresses the separation of a whole into parts and implies that the parts are equal. three charitable groups divided the proceeds deal emphasizes the allotment of something piece by piece. deal out equipment and supplies dole out implies a carefully measured portion of something that is often in short supply. doled out what little food there was

Examples of dispense in a Sentence

The ATM only dispenses $20 bills. a newspaper columnist who dispenses advice to millions of readers each week Pharmacists are certified to dispense medication.
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Recent Examples on the Web

One viral video shows an automatic soap dispenser in a public bathroom that only dispenses soap onto white hands. The Christian Science Monitor, "AI can have values if not a conscience," 2 July 2018 Sessions said Louisville and others will benefit from a data analytics program that can calculate which doctors are prescribing the most pain pills, which pharmacies are dispensing the most and who has the most patients who end up dead. Beth Warren, The Courier-Journal, "Doctor fraud crackdown on opioid epidemic involves Louisville," 28 June 2018 The ways that drugs are dispensed on farms only began to be described a few years ago, and the descriptions don’t exactly match scientific understanding of how resistance emerges from farms. Maryn Mckenna, WIRED, "To Understand Antibiotic Abuse We Need Data From Farms," 11 June 2018 In 2016, a $12 million stock grant had boosted his pay, dispensed as part of his initial agreement to become CEO in 2015. Rick Rothacker And Ely Portillo, charlotteobserver, "Here's how much Charlotte CEOs made in 2017 — and their best perks | Charlotte Observer," 22 May 2018 Buy Photo Medical marijuana retailers have sprouted across the state since February, dispensing cannabis to thousands of patients with 17 qualifying health conditions. Sam Wood, Philly.com, "Center City to get its first marijuana dispensary," 25 Apr. 2018 Prescriptions for opioids fell sharply last year, the steepest drop in the amount of painkillers dispensed to patients in 25 years, according to a report from IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science, the research arm of a health-care data firm. The Washington Post, AL.com, "Opioid prescriptions fell 10 percent in 2017, biggest drop in 25 years," 19 Apr. 2018 The robot grinds the meat, forms the patties, griddles them (a process tracked by 11 thermal sensors), chops tomatoes and grates cheese for those who want such accoutrements, slices, toasts and butters the bun, and dispenses seasoning and sauces. The Economist, "The rise of the robochef," 12 July 2018 Smith belongs to the same generation as pianist Robert Glasper, and he traffics in similar territory, but the former keeps a much tighter rein on his band, dispensing endless vamps and incorporating solos that go against the music’s smooth veneer. Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader, "Jazz drummer Nate Smith comes into his own as a bandleader with a sleek strain of R&B and funk that showcases his improvisational elasticity," 12 July 2018

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

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

History and Etymology for dispense

Middle English, from Medieval Latin & Latin; Medieval Latin dispensare to exempt, from Latin, to distribute, from dis- + pensare to weigh, frequentative of pendere to weigh, pay out — more at spin

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Statistics for dispense

Last Updated

1 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for dispense

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

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More Definitions for dispense



English Language Learners Definition of dispense

: to give or provide (something)

: to prepare and give (medicine)


dis·pense | \ di-ˈspens \
dispensed; dispensing

Kids Definition of dispense

1 : to give out in small amounts The machine dispenses candy.

2 : to give out as deserved The judge dispensed justice.

3 : to put up or prepare medicine in a form ready for use

dispense with

: to do or get along without Let's dispense with introductions.


transitive verb
dis·pense | \ dis-ˈpen(t)s \
dispensed; dispensing

Medical Definition of dispense 

1 : to put up (a prescription or medicine)

2 : to prepare and distribute (medication)

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Comments on dispense

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


occurring twice a year or every two years

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