disperse

verb

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

transitive verb

1
a
: 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
2
a
: to become dispersed
the particles dispersed throughout the mixture
b
: dissipate, vanish
the fog dispersed toward morning
dispersedly
di-ˈspər-səd-lē How to pronounce disperse (audio)
-ˈspərst-lē
adverb
disperser noun
dispersible 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 During the march, prosecutors wrote, Laube punched the journalist several times before a counter-protestor used pepper spray to momentarily disperse the crowd. Sean Emery, Orange County Register, 5 Apr. 2024 At the Assembly’s urging, the agreement also authorizes the administration to pause one-time spending from prior budget years that has not yet been dispersed. Taryn Luna, Los Angeles Times, 4 Apr. 2024 Rittenhouse left, protesters in the audience emerged to cheers, and after a couple brief confrontations between supporters and opposition, the crowd outside the Downing Student Union had mostly dispersed by 8:30 p.m. The Courier-Journal, 28 Mar. 2024 Big datacenters are not evenly dispersed throughout the country. Christopher Helman, Forbes, 28 Mar. 2024 Small mammals eat the fruit, as do box turtles, important in dispersing the seeds. Daryln Brewer Hoffstot Kristian Thacker, New York Times, 23 Mar. 2024 Speeding up nature’s pace Worldwide, trees move north and south and up and down mountains in long-term response to changing climate, their seeds dispersed by winds and carried by animals. Smithsonian Magazine, 15 Mar. 2024 The Legislature previously approved a bill authorizing the DOT to disperse the funds. Karl Ebert, Journal Sentinel, 13 Mar. 2024 They were kept behind chain-link fencing, with a heavy presence of police in riot gear after the authorities ordered them to disperse. Thomas Buckley, Fortune, 11 Mar. 2024

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.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English, from Latin dispersus, past participle of dispergere to scatter, from dis- + spargere to scatter — more at spark

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

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

Dictionary Entries Near disperse

Cite this Entry

“Disperse.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disperse. Accessed 16 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

disperse

verb
dis·​perse dis-ˈpərs How to pronounce disperse (audio)
dispersed; dispersing
1
: to cause to become spread widely : scatter
police dispersed the crowd
2
: to subject (as light) to dispersion
3
: to move in different directions
the clouds dispersed

Medical Definition

disperse

verb
dis·​perse dis-ˈpərs How to pronounce disperse (audio)
dispersed; dispersing

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

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