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

Other Words from disperse

dispersedly \ di-​ˈspər-​səd-​lē How to pronounce disperse (audio) , -​ˈspərst-​lē \ adverb
disperser noun
dispersible \ di-​ˈspər-​sə-​bəl How to pronounce disperse (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 The protests were marred by violent clashes with the police, who fired tear gas in Paris to disperse the crowd. New York Times, 26 Apr. 2022 What happened: During a protest following the death of Taylor and Floyd, Louisville police and the Kentucky National Guard were sent to disperse a large crowd of demonstrators around midnight in front of a BBQ stand McAtee owned. Giselle Rhoden, CNN, 16 Apr. 2022 Ken Twitty, general manager of Dive Bar and District 30, two separate businesses on the same K Street block, was outside with his staff trying to disperse a crowd when the shooting happened. Roland Li, San Francisco Chronicle, 6 Apr. 2022 The report says police first used chemical munitions on May 26 to disperse an angry crowd outside the city’s 3rd Precinct, the police station where Derek Chauvin and the three other officers charged in Floyd’s killing worked. Washington Post, 9 Mar. 2022 Russian troops reportedly fired warning shots to disperse the crowd, but no casualties were reported. Grayson Quay, The Week, 6 Mar. 2022 Law enforcement officers prepare to disperse a crowd late Sunday night. NBC News, 14 Feb. 2022 But a few dozen vehicles were able to disrupt traffic on the famed Champs-Elysees, prompting police to fire tear gas to disperse the crowd. Compiled Democrat-gazette Staff From Wire Reports, Arkansas Online, 14 Feb. 2022 Roeske returned to negotiate with Forcia, who agreed to help disperse the crowd before the troopers felt obliged to arrest anyone. Erin L. Thompson, Smithsonian Magazine, 3 Feb. 2022 See More

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.

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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Dictionary Entries Near disperse



dispersed harmony

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Statistics for disperse

Last Updated

5 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Disperse.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disperse. Accessed 16 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for disperse


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

More from Merriam-Webster on disperse

Nglish: Translation of disperse for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of disperse for Arabic Speakers


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