dis·​perse | \di-ˈspərs \
dispersed; dispersing

Definition of disperse 

transitive verb

1a : to cause to break up (see break up sense 1a) police dispersed the crowd

b : to cause to become spread widely disperse the troops

c : to cause to evaporate or vanish sunlight dispersing the mist

2 : to spread or distribute from a fixed or constant source: such as

a archaic : disseminate disperse the news

b physics : to subject to dispersion (see dispersion sense 4) disperse light

c chemistry : to distribute (something, such as fine particles) more or less evenly throughout a medium

intransitive verb

1 : to break up in random fashion the crowd dispersed on request

2a : to become dispersed the particles dispersed throughout the mixture

b : dissipate, vanish the fog dispersed toward morning

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Other Words from disperse

dispersedly \-​ˈspər-​səd-​lē, -​ˈspərst-​lē \ adverb
disperser noun
dispersible \-​ˈspər-​sə-​bəl \ adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for disperse

scatter, disperse, dissipate, dispel mean to cause to separate or break up. scatter implies a force that drives parts or units irregularly in many directions. the bowling ball scattered the pins disperse implies a wider separation and a complete breaking up of a mass or group. police dispersed the crowd dissipate stresses complete disintegration or dissolution and final disappearance. the fog was dissipated by the morning sun dispel stresses a driving away or getting rid of as if by scattering. an authoritative statement that dispelled all doubt

Examples of disperse in a Sentence

Police ordered the crowd to disperse. the crowd dispersed once the show ended

Recent Examples on the Web

Facebook doesn't just disperse your personal information to its robust network of advertisers to hawk products and services online. Sam Blum, Popular Mechanics, "Facebook Uses the Contacts In Your Phone to Sell Ads to Your Friends," 27 Sep. 2018 The rain came down harder, but the crowd, energized and ready for change, was slow to disperse. Kristen Doerer, Teen Vogue, "Youth Climate Change Activists Marched on Washington, D.C.," 22 July 2018 The complaint seeks an order requiring MetLife to locate all affected Massachusetts retirees and to make retroactive payments to them — with interest — as well as to continue dispersing regular payments to each retiree. Katheleen Conti, BostonGlobe.com, "MetLife charged with fraud for failing to pay pensions of ‘dead’ retirees," 25 June 2018 Same goes for a pile of ruddy, funky, life-affirming lamb tartare showered in Parmesan and violet chive blossoms with sweet curls of Asian pear, a soy-mirin-sugar confit egg yolk lurking in its midst waiting to disperse its rich unctuousness. Mike Sula, Chicago Reader, "Andersonville’s Passerotto is a tale of two peninsulas," 21 June 2018 Officials said the senior class will disperse to more than 100 different colleges in 32 states and Washington, D.C., while two graduates will join the Air Force Academy and one is expected to join the United States Naval Academy. Steve Schering, chicagotribune.com, "Fenwick High School honors its 2018 graduating class," 29 May 2018 Bildu’s first concern is the 300 ETA prisoners, 80% of them dispersed to facilities across Spain. The Economist, "Spain’s ETA Basque terrorists disband," 9 May 2018 Now, the $11 billion in sales still happening at Toys R Us each year will disperse to other retailers like Amazon and discounters, analysts say. Washington Post, "Toys R Us downfall to have impact on toy makers to landlords," 15 Mar. 2018 Now, the $11 billion in sales still happening at Toys R Us each year will disperse to other retailers like Amazon and discounters, analysts say. Anne D'innocenzio, The Christian Science Monitor, "Toys R Us to liquidate all of its US stores," 15 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'disperse.' 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 disperse

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for disperse

Middle English, from Latin dispersus, past participle of dispergere to scatter, from dis- + spargere to scatter — more at spark

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Statistics for disperse

Last Updated

13 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for disperse

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

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More Definitions for disperse



English Language Learners Definition of disperse

: to go or move in different directions : to spread apart


dis·​perse | \di-ˈspərs \
dispersed; dispersing

Kids Definition of disperse

: to break up and scatter The clouds dispersed.


dis·​perse | \dis-ˈpərs \
dispersed; dispersing

Medical Definition of disperse 

transitive verb

: to spread or distribute from a fixed or constant source: as

a : to subject (as light) to dispersion

b : to distribute (as fine particles) more or less evenly throughout a medium

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More from Merriam-Webster on disperse

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with disperse

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for disperse

Spanish Central: Translation of disperse

Nglish: Translation of disperse for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of disperse for Arabic Speakers

Comments on disperse

What made you want to look up disperse? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a nest or breeding place

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