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 WebUltimately, the protest was dispersed and students returned to classrooms without further incident, police said.—Marlene Lenthang, NBC News, 28 Nov. 2023 Two key features set this drip coffee maker apart: A showerhead dripper that ensures the water is evenly dispersed onto the bed of coffee, and a flat filter basket that allows for more even extraction.—Carina Finn, Bon Appétit, 27 Nov. 2023 Police confirmed that tear gas canisters were used to disperse the protesters.—Kiara Alfonseca, ABC News, 13 Nov. 2023 In a telling interview with the New Yorker, Daniella Weiss, a veteran leader of the Israeli settler movement, showed, at best, indifference to the plight of Gaza’s Palestinians, saying they should be dispersed to countries like Egypt and Turkey and that Israelis should resettle Gaza.—Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 13 Nov. 2023 About 10 minutes after detonation, the mixture of debris and fission products will form miles-high radioactive mushroom clouds, which will then be dispersed by high-altitude winds, leading to fallout on downwind areas.—Sébastien Philippe, Scientific American, 10 Nov. 2023 This means their seeds were most likely dispersed by barochory.—Allison Futterman, Discover Magazine, 10 Nov. 2023 One of the biggest challenges for public health efforts is dispersed patient data.—Katherine MacPhail, STAT, 8 Nov. 2023 Inside the annual event, hosted at Chateau Marmont’s storied Bar Marmont, even the most notable of guests had their photos snapped upon entry (this would be a phone-free affair) before dispersing to the bar, the main dance floor, or the cozy nook of a room off to the side.—Jamila Stewart, Vogue, 17 Nov. 2023 See More
These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'disperse.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.
Middle English, from Latin dispersus, past participle of dispergere to scatter, from dis- + spargere to scatter — more at spark