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 The state will dispense with remaining restrictions on May 19, except for a requirement that masks be worn. Stephen Singer, courant.com, "Looking for work? Mohegan Sun schedules 2-day job fair, offering $2,000 sign-on bonuses, as Connecticut drops COVID-19 restrictions," 6 May 2021 Our modern revolutionaries would dispense even with show trials. Gerard Baker, WSJ, "The Chauvin Trial and the Chelsea Handler Standard of Justice," 19 Apr. 2021 Might as well dispense with the Pixar films up top. Bill Goodykoontz, The Arizona Republic, "The best movies to watch with family, from 'Up' and 'Black Panther' to 'Wizard of Oz'," 10 Apr. 2021 Additionally, your machine may dispense too little or too much water. Stephanie Shipman, chicagotribune.com, "How to fix a Keurig," 11 Mar. 2021 There are six-foot distancing markers on the ground, clear dividers set up on student desks, and devices at school entrances that check temperatures and dispense a pump of hand sanitizer. Kristen Taketa, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Excited and stressed, San Diego’s educators prepare for first day of in-person school Monday," 11 Apr. 2021 The spray nozzle makes the product easier to dispense and spread over large areas, while also targeting hard-to-reach places. Marianne Mychaskiw, Good Housekeeping, "6 Uses for Aquaphor That Might Surprise You," 8 Apr. 2021 Girl Scout troops — simulating local organizations that would dispense the antibiotics — lined up in cars to receive the cookie boxes in a drive-thru. Taylor Deville, baltimoresun.com, "I wanna shot: How life on the road with Twisted Sister prepared the man running Baltimore County’s COVID vaccine sites," 1 Mar. 2021 The sites will initially dispense about 22,000 shots per week, Kemp said. Greg Bluestein, ajc, "Georgia opens 4 COVID-19 vaccination sites," 22 Feb. 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

12 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Dispense.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dispense. Accessed 12 May. 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)

Comments on dispense

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