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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web This aims to verify patients’ recent proof of normal neutrophil counts before pharmacies can dispense clozapine, meaning patients must visit a lab for blood draws as frequently as once a week. Brian Barnett, STAT, 9 May 2022 The measure would allow pharmacists and prescribing providers to dispense Narcan to school boards, and require schools to designate one employee to administer the medication in the event that a school nurse is unavailable. Jenna Carlesso, Hartford Courant, 4 May 2022 The gadget is designed to dispense hot glue when plugged into an outlet, and the trigger is depressed. Chris Smith, BGR, 18 Apr. 2022 The two argued that mandatory voting would also dispense with efforts to suppress turnout, which has become a strategy in some Republican-run states. Los Angeles Times, 12 Apr. 2022 The company's six vessels, which range from five to 38 cabins, are staffed by Alaskan naturalist guides who dispense the sort of personal insights that only locals can. Jeff Chu, Travel + Leisure, 15 Mar. 2022 Pharmacists who dispense drugs in hospital or community pharmacies typically have software that keeps records that include patients’ allergies and current medicines, and these programs flag even mild interactions. WSJ, 10 Mar. 2022 Still, dozens of lawsuits have been filed against hospitals across the country to compel them to dispense ivermectin to patients, sometimes successfully. Washington Post, 26 Feb. 2022 One dropper, which will dispense about 10 drops at a time, is enough — part your hair and apply to the areas that need help, gently massaging it in with your fingertips before styling as usual. Jihan Forbes, Allure, 31 Jan. 2022 See More

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.

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

Learn More About dispense

Time Traveler for dispense

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near dispense




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for dispense

Last Updated

24 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Dispense.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dispense. Accessed 28 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for dispense


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)

More from Merriam-Webster on dispense

Nglish: Translation of dispense for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of dispense for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Eponyms: Words Named After People

True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!