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 Fiddian-Green said the foundation saw a Bipartisan Policy Center report that examined how federal funding was dispersed across states, but didn't see how the funding was aligned to each state's need. Cortlynn Stark, Indianapolis Star, "Indiana may have itself to blame for being shorted millions to fight opioids, report says," 11 Nov. 2019 Every time a campsite or group of people who use drugs together is dispersed through sweeps or clean-ups, the people there move and form new networks. oregonlive, "Homeless with HIV: A lack of housing makes a preventable disease deadly in Oregon," 10 Nov. 2019 The block map the company showed off indicates 48 PCIe 4.0 lanes can be dispersed for general use. Gordon Mah Ung, PCWorld, "AMD unveils 32-core Threadripper 3970X, 16-core Ryzen 9 3950X, and unlocked Athlon," 7 Nov. 2019 These advanced payments, deducted from a policyholder's final claim settlement, can be dispersed in five days to help kick-start recovery, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said in a news release. Andrea Leinfelder, Houston Chronicle, "Texas homeowners flooded by Imelda have received $280M in flood insurance claims," 30 Oct. 2019 The video does not appear to show the moment pepper spray was dispersed, but at one point several students can be heard coughing and leaving the area. Brieanna J. Frank, azcentral, "Officer used pepper spray to break up Phoenix middle school fight, police confirm," 25 Oct. 2019 The tens of millions in federal reimbursements were supposed to be dispersed by July 30, according to language in the deal. Silvia Foster-frau, ExpressNews.com, "San Antonio receives first reimbursement for migrant aid," 11 Oct. 2019 This means that payments are dispersed to athletic departments and presumably spent on student-athletes. Daron K. Roberts For Cnn Business Perspectives, CNN, "Paying college athletes is a huge win for women," 8 Oct. 2019 Demonstrators have been using face masks to conceal their identities and protect themselves from tear gas dispersed by police during months of protests that have roiled the territory. NBC News, "'A very dark day': Hong Kong settles into uneasy calm after night of violence," 5 Oct. 2019

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

15 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Disperse.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dispersed. Accessed 21 November 2019.

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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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