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

Between July 2016 and March 2018, Novick allegedly engaged in a conspiracy to dispense and distribute substances such as oxycodone and morphine. Juan Ortega, Sun-Sentinel.com, "A look at South Floridians charged in health care fraud, opioid crackdown," 29 June 2018 In fact, cheering kids on at soccer matches, gymnastics meets, karate tournaments and hockey games is just a bonus for a job that already gives you the right to dispense wisdom, dad jokes and cash. John D'anna, azcentral, "On Father's Day, dads don't need (or want) you to go through the motions," 15 June 2018 In fact cheering kids on at soccer matches, gymnastics meets, karate tournaments and hockey games is just a bonus for a job that already gives you the right to dispense wisdom, dad jokes and cash. John D'anna, USA TODAY, "Do we really need Father's Day? I'm a dad, and I don't think so," 15 June 2018 The machine’s purpose, naturally, was to dispense cash outside of limited operating hours—as well as to fend off union efforts to close bank branches on Saturdays. Carolina A. Miranda, The Atlantic, "The Unbearable Awkwardness of Automation," 13 June 2018 These three women arrive at the Bachelor manse to dispense advice. Rebecca Farley, refinery29.com, "The Bachelorette Season 14 Premiere Recap: Not Gonna Say It," 29 May 2018 The economic advice dispensed by the gurus of what was known as the Washington Consensus weakened an already vulnerable Russian state. Keith Gessen, New York Times, "The Quiet Americans Behind the U.S.-Russia Imbroglio," 8 May 2018 Many times Miller was reluctant to confirm rumors that NCAA investigators threw at him including that UConn routinely paid players or the possibility a psychologist hired by the athletic department was dispensing advice to potential recruits. Dave Altimari, courant.com, "Former UConn Basketball Assistant Makes Serious Accusations Regarding Kevin Ollie In NCAA Investigation Testimony," 22 June 2018 Three of the bunk refunds were processed, and $23,000 was dispensed from the IRS. Ben Brasch, ajc, "Feds: Cobb man duped school districts into giving up employee tax info," 21 May 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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Learn More about dispense

Statistics for dispense

Last Updated

10 Nov 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).


by force of circumstances

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