dis·​perse | \ di-ˈspərs How to pronounce disperse (audio) \
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 \ di-​ˈspər-​səd-​lē How to pronounce dispersedly (audio) , -​ˈspərst-​lē \ adverb
disperser noun
dispersible \ di-​ˈspər-​sə-​bəl How to pronounce dispersible (audio) \ 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 As the rallies got underway, police used tear gas to disperse those marching on a road leading to the airport in the capital, Khartoum. Washington Post, "World Digest: June 30, 2020," 30 June 2020 The father says it’s time for the occupiers to disperse, according to KIRO 7 News. Andrew Mark Miller, Washington Examiner, "Father of man killed in CHOP shooting calls on National Guard to disperse occupiers," 30 June 2020 The death prompted Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan to announce last week the city would begin efforts to dismantle the CHOP, asking organizers to convince protesters to disperse to avoid police intervention. Fox News, "Latest Seattle CHOP shooting sees at least 2 injured, police say," 29 June 2020 The nonprofit Don’t Shoot Portland and two protesters sued the city, seeking to ban the Portland police use of tear gas to disperse large crowds. oregonlive, "Portland protests to continue for 30th consecutive day Friday," 26 June 2020 Huntsville police will remain under public scrutiny in weeks to come following protest rallies in which tear gas was used to disperse participants speaking out against police brutality. Paul Gattis | Pgattis@al.com, al, "Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle seeking ‘way forward’ for police after protests, use of tear gas," 26 June 2020 By the time students had returned to school and began to disperse, the principal was still making his way along the route. Nina Strochlic, National Geographic, "Follow high school grads as they say goodbye to a senior year stolen by coronavirus," 24 June 2020 As the protesters began to disperse on Wednesday, some went back to work, picking up passengers in Pacific Heights on their way out. Danielle Echeverria, SFChronicle.com, "Uber drivers protest coronavirus safety program at CEO’s SF home," 24 June 2020 Protesters say that police fired some chemical irritants to disperse them. Stephanie Armour, WSJ, "Race and Policing: Continuing Coverage," 23 June 2020

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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Time Traveler for disperse

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for disperse

Last Updated

3 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Disperse.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disperse. Accessed 5 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for disperse


How to pronounce disperse (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of disperse

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


dis·​perse | \ di-ˈspərs How to pronounce disperse (audio) \
dispersed; dispersing

Kids Definition of disperse

: to break up and scatter The clouds dispersed.


dis·​perse | \ dis-ˈpərs How to pronounce disperse (audio) \
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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