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 But more fights broke out after the groups had dispersed and roved the downtown streets in smaller packs, with tense and sometimes bloody exchanges flaring up between demonstrators. Mike Baker, New York Times, "Portland Protests: Far-Right Groups and Antifa Face Off as Trump Weighs In," 17 Aug. 2019 Yellownecked caterpillars currently munching on shade and fruit trees will soon be dispersing and making cocoons, then turn into moths. Ellen Nibali, baltimoresun.com, "Garden Q&A: The very hungry caterpillars and protecting the phlox," 15 Aug. 2019 Crowds dispersed and flights resumed Tuesday, but later in the day, protesters returned and their numbers swelled. Jen Kirby, Vox, "Hong Kong airport protests escalate with canceled flights and police standoffs," 13 Aug. 2019 Usually the closures last a short time, as the germs disperse and die off. Bob Shaw, Twin Cities, "Yuck! Beach closures this summer in Twin Cities blamed on poop-germ," 12 Aug. 2019 After each practice at training camp, once fans disperse and coaches leave, Garoppolo refines his one-on-one connections, doing so with a cast of receivers still trying to make a name for themselves. Cam Inman, The Mercury News, "How will Garoppolo’s overtime work with 49ers receivers pay off?," 8 Aug. 2019 The deaths tend to be more widely dispersed and do not involve the devastation of property as do the ravages of wind and water. The Economist, "Heatwaves are killing people," 27 July 2019 There can be problems even if the credit is dispersed monthly. Jeff Andrews, Curbed, "Democrats are proposing a renters tax credit. Would it help or hurt renters?," 24 June 2019 By the time the evening of mixing and mingling drew to a close, the sun had emerged to match the cheerful disposition of the guests dispersing from the party. Vogue, "Tanya Taylor Hosted a Gorgeous Garden Party to Celebrate the Brand’s Newest Summer-Ready Accessory," 21 June 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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Statistics for disperse

Last Updated

1 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for disperse

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

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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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Comments on disperse

What made you want to look up disperse? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a calculated move

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