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 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 Or another activity that never fails to disperse and delight: Blowing bubbles. Maria Shine Stewart, cleveland, "Prune, pitch or preserve in 2021: Sun Messages," 28 Dec. 2020 The bill to disperse the 120-seat Knesset, or parliament, and head to new elections heralded a new period of political instability and upheaval even though the government did not immediately fall. New York Times, "Israel Takes First Step Toward New Election," 2 Dec. 2020 Police fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the crowds and in the early evening, a water cannon sprayed remaining groups of protesters on Place de la Bastille. NBC News, "Protesters clash with police at Paris protest against police violence," 28 Nov. 2020 Wagner says lengthening hours can help disperse crowds and make some shoppers feel more comfortable. Kelly Tyko, USA TODAY, "Small business owners add curbside pickup, FaceTime virtual shopping, online sales to compete this holiday season," 12 Oct. 2020 Police used pepper balls and tear gas as part of their effort to disperse the crowds and arrested dozens of protesters for failing to leave. Josh Funk, Star Tribune, "Lawsuit says Omaha Police used excessive force at protests," 5 Oct. 2020 Research in Minnesota found that yearling does (44 percent) disperse almost as frequently as yearling bucks (45 percent), and nearly as far (6 miles for does, 7 miles for bucks). Scott Bestul, Outdoor Life, "In the Future: CWD Won’t Kill Whitetail Deer Hunting," 5 Oct. 2020 Still, police started to disperse and arrest the crowd earlier and with more force than many other nights. oregonlive, "Oregon political, police leaders feud over who will aid Portland as protesters dispute more cops the answer," 1 Sep. 2020 According to a Facebook livestream by Mercado Media, police shortly before 1 a.m. were asking for voluntary cooperation to disperse the area and leave the park. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Several fires burning in Kenosha as unrest continues after police officer shoots Black man," 24 Aug. 2020

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

17 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Disperse.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disperse. Accessed 26 Jan. 2021.

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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

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