dis·​pense | \ di-ˈspen(t)s How to pronounce dispense (audio) \
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 Ohio Cincinnati: Naloxone dispensing increased more than 2,000% in the state since it was made available without a prescription in 2015, research shows. USA TODAY, "Jornada del Muerto, Livestrong rebrand, Mach 8 tunnel: News from around our 50 states," 12 Feb. 2020 Sherman still occasionally quotes Ali to other 49ers, one example of the savvy veteran dispensing wisdom to his younger teammates. Ron Kroichick, SFChronicle.com, "Richard Sherman’s fiery leadership inspires 49ers’ title run," 25 Jan. 2020 Digital home visits, pill-dispensing robots and more IN A GREY office building on the outskirts of Helsinki, a chatty social worker is meeting six elderly people from around town for lunch—via tablets propped on their kitchen tables. The Economist, "Prescribing tablets Finland turns to technology to help frail old people live at home," 9 Jan. 2020 The judge recently ordered the pharmacies to produce more than a decades’ worth dispensing data as part of discovery for the trial and the litigation as a whole, which will detail billions of transactions nationwide. Eric Heisig, cleveland, "Pharmacies facing trial in opioid lawsuits say doctors should be held liable for epidemic," 7 Jan. 2020 Combined, these seven entities accounted for 70% of US prescription dispensing revenues in 2018. Amrita Khalid, Quartz, "Amazon’s plan to dominate the pharmaceutical industry is taking shape," 29 Nov. 2019 The show also expands the familiar story to include a castor-oil-dispensing nanny nemesis for our bumbershoot-sailing Miss Poppins. Web Behrens, chicagotribune.com, "40 things to do in the Chicago area with the kids in December," 24 Nov. 2019 The gritty metropolises that characters once hoped to escape evolved into the quirky, cupcake-dispensing playgrounds of young adults who don’t want to grow up. Joanna Scutts, Curbed, "The shows we’ve lived by," 14 Aug. 2019 But the highest naloxone dispensing rate was in Marshall County, Ind., according to the CDC data. Mike Stobbe, Fortune, "Drug Overdose Deaths— Opioids Included—Fell for the First Time in Three Decades. Here’s Why," 6 Aug. 2019

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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Learn More about dispense

Time Traveler for dispense

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for dispense

Last Updated

17 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Dispense.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dispense. Accessed 20 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for dispense


How to pronounce dispense (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of dispense

: to give or provide (something)
: to prepare and give (medicine)


dis·​pense | \ di-ˈspens How to pronounce dispense (audio) \
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.
dis·​pense | \ dis-ˈpen(t)s How to pronounce dispense (audio) \
dispensed; dispensing

Medical Definition of dispense

1 : to put up (a prescription or medicine)
2 : to prepare and distribute (medication)

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