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

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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

Example Sentences

Police ordered the crowd to disperse. the crowd dispersed once the show ended
Recent Examples on the Web But as people disperse, residents in neighborhoods that were never affected are locking their doors and shutting down their businesses. Marina Lopes, Washington Post, 5 Aug. 2022 In addition, the Forest Preserves’ trout lakes will be closed to all fishing from March 28, until sunrise on April 2, to allow the trout to disperse throughout the lakes prior to opening. Paul Eisenberg, chicagotribune.com, 18 Mar. 2022 The city expects to receive 9,200 kits and probably won’t disperse them until early next week. Jesse Leavenworth, courant.com, 28 Dec. 2021 Police refused and fired tear gas to disperse the crowd. Laetitia Bezain, ajc, 29 Aug. 2022 Officers assigned to the Civil Disturbance Response Team responded to the entertainment district around 1:39 a.m. to disperse a large crowd. Erin Couch, The Enquirer, 8 Aug. 2022 Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd ahead of an 8 p.m. curfew. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, 25 July 2022 Guests trickled out and rejoined the block party, which now included several squad cars and more police officers trying to disperse the crowd. John Ortved, New York Times, 20 July 2022 Elia was forced to the ground by at least four officers after police had deployed tear gas to disperse a crowd near North Lombard Street, according to the suit. oregonlive, 20 July 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.

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 4 Oct. 2022.

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Kids Definition

disperse

verb

dis·​perse di-ˈspərs How to pronounce disperse (audio)
dispersed; dispersing
: to break up and scatter
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

Last Updated: 14 Sep 2022

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