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

Down the street, the crowds dispersing, Tom Levine walked back up Main Street. Aubrey Whelan, Philly.com, "'It's a remarkable thing … we've got to protect.' In shooting's wake, a Maryland town embraces its newspaper," 30 June 2018 The company was required to cover the piles in plastic sheeting and to install a fence to prevent wind from dispersing the materials in the air. Katrease Stafford, Detroit Free Press, "Text messages reveal illegal dumping by Detroit demo contractor," 26 June 2018 Within two decades the Elgin Botanic Garden was gone — plants dispersed, carriage drives overgrown, glasshouses demolished. Marta Mcdowell, New York Times, "Deep Below Rockefeller Center Lies a Legendary Botanical Garden," 25 June 2018 The problem can be exacerbated in hot weather, especially when no wind is blowing to disperse particulates in the air, said Zack Taylor, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Kate Talerico, The Courier-Journal, "Louisville had worst air quality in country last weekend," 21 June 2018 The 10 of them quietly explored their floating digs in the twilight, dispersing in parties of two or three into the belly of the ship, looking for adventure. Oddur Thorisson, Condé Nast Traveler, "Traveling in Venice With Kids," 21 June 2018 There were approximately 340 students in the program dispersed between five schools last year, but now, the same number of students is at only four schools. Quoron Walker, Courant Community, "What's The Future Of The 4th 'R' Program?," 21 May 2018 According to a press release sent by the kingdom's Ministry of Culture and Information, the footprints were found dispersing in different directions on what was once an ancient lakebed. National Geographic, "85,000-Year-Old Footprints Show Stepping Stone in Human Migration," 14 May 2018 The result of more active management will be a wider range of returns, dispersed around the same mean. The Economist, "Equity investingActive fund managers hold fewer and fewer stocks," 10 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

18 Oct 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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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 state of commotion or excitement

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