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 But the company said sales jumped during the pandemic as customers looked for touch-free ways to dispense food. Dee-ann Durbin, Chron, "DoorDash buys robot food prep company Chowbotics," 8 Feb. 2021 San Francisco’s fears of running out of coronavirus vaccine by Thursday were waived by California officials’ go-ahead for the state’s providers to dispense the Moderna batch that had been put on hold following some allergic reactions in San Diego. Chronicle Staff, San Francisco Chronicle, "Coronavirus news from the Bay Area: Jan. 21-27, 2021," 6 Feb. 2021 There’s a device to make any coffee table a wireless charging station, a standard-looking deadbolt lock that unlocks with a touch, a bed with a disappearing, transparent TV, and a faucet that can dispense exactly two tablespoons of water on command. Nicole Nguyen, WSJ, "CES 2021: From Toilets to Coffee Tables, the Best Smart-Home Gadgets Hide the Tech," 14 Jan. 2021 That’s why coach Sean McVay needs to dispense with formalities and shrug off traditions and start Wolford against the Seahawks. Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times, "Column: Rams need to stick with John Wolford and start him in playoffs," 3 Jan. 2021 Co-locating will allow for the sale of marijuana used for pleasure in the same establishments that dispense marijuana for medicinal purposes. Karen Pearlman, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Lemon Grove preparing for recreational cannabis sales for the city," 23 Nov. 2020 The mechanically uncomplicated racks that dispense free publications cost only about $200 and are still moving well, Card said. Eric Zorn, chicagotribune.com, "Column: The era of newspaper vending boxes is snapping shut," 11 Sep. 2020 Simply dispense the cleaner and water mixture through the hose, agitate the fabric with the brush nozzle, and vacuum up the dirt into the tank. Amanda Garrity, Good Housekeeping, "How to Properly Clean and Sanitize a Couch at Home (With or Without a Steam Cleaner)," 25 Jan. 2021 Biden has vowed to dispense 100 million shots in his first 100 days. Carla K. Johnson, Star Tribune, "Health experts blame rapid expansion for vaccine shortages," 21 Jan. 2021

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 2021

Cite this Entry

“Dispense.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dispense. Accessed 25 Feb. 2021.

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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 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.


transitive verb
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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Comments on dispense

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