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 rights of human nature and the principles of our holy religion loudly call upon us to dispense the blessings of freedom to all mankind. Richard Brookhiser, National Review, "The New York Manumission Society," 24 Oct. 2019 With this record, Mr Trudeau should be racing to re-election while dispensing advice to other leaders on how to soothe middle-class discontents and achieve liberal goals. The Economist, "Climate change dominates Canada’s election," 10 Oct. 2019 Liquid soap dispensed from a pump with warm water is considered the best option for keeping things clean. Paul Sisson, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Medical know-how for the family caregiver," 24 Apr. 2018 The usual National Security Council process was dispensed with; only a small circle of advisers was even clued in. Peter Baker, New York Times, "How Trump’s Plan to Secretly Meet With the Taliban Came Together, and Fell Apart," 8 Sep. 2019 Another smart move: Muschietti dispenses with one of the book's subplots involving Beverley's abusive husband and Bill's wife, Audra, following their spouses to Derry and getting pulled into Pennywise's shenanigans. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Review: IT Chapter Two is overlong, but Pennywise will still haunt your dreams," 6 Sep. 2019 Apart from Dawn to Dusk, the formulas avoid triggering either the jitters or the crash of caffeine by dispensing with the kick as well. Richard Cooke, The New Republic, "The conservative commentariat’s love affair with nootropics," 3 Sep. 2019 Gauff was crying after Osaka dispensed with her 6-3, 6-0 in just 65 minutes. Ann Killion, SFChronicle.com, "U.S. Open: Naomi Osaka, Coco Gauff showed that women’s game is in good hands," 2 Sep. 2019 Both the Magnfica S and Incanto grind, compress, brew, and dispense espresso with the tap of a button. Jeffrey Van Camp, WIRED, "Are Super Automatic Espresso Machines Worth It?," 21 July 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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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

24 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Dispense.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dispensing. Accessed 7 December 2019.

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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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Comments on dispense

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