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 Police in the port city of Rotterdam used a water cannon and tear gas in an attempt to disperse a crowd of rioters. Mike Corder, Star Tribune, "Dutch police use tear gas, water cannon amid rioting," 25 Jan. 2021 More than 500 people were killed in mass demonstrations as security forces used live rounds and tear gas to disperse crowds. Samya Kullab And Qassim Abdul-zahra, USA TODAY, "Twin suicide bombings rock central Baghdad, at least 28 dead," 21 Jan. 2021 Video and social media posts showed demonstrators burning tires, and there were reports of looting and vandalism as officers used tear gas to disperse the crowds. Abdi Latif Dahir, New York Times, "Deadly Protests Erupt in Uganda After Arrest of 2 Opposition Figures," 19 Nov. 2020 Over the weekend, thousands continued to defy the ban, and there were tense standoffs with police who used water cannons laced with blue dye and chemicals to disperse crowds. Ryn Jirenuwat, The Christian Science Monitor, "Student protesters push Thai politics into uncharted waters," 19 Oct. 2020 On Thursday, protesters violently clashed with police, who fired tear gas and water cannons in an attempt to disperse crowds in central Jakarta. Helen Regan, CNN, "Indonesia is putting business before the environment and that could be disastrous for its rainforests," 12 Oct. 2020 Police fired tear gas and water cannon in an attempt to disperse the crowd, Reuters witnesses said. NBC News, "Clashes erupt during demonstrations against new Indonesian jobs law," 9 Oct. 2020 Police used tear gas, pepper bullets and flash bangs to disperse crowds that night and the following evening, as people began smashing windows and burglarizing businesses downtown. Bailey Loosemore, The Courier-Journal, "Protests in Louisville: What activists want — and what they've accomplished," 1 Oct. 2020 Officers deployed tear gas in an attempt to disperse a crowd outside the Kenosha County courthouse. Brian Flood | Fox News, Fox News, "CNN removes the term ‘violent’ from on-air graphic describing protests in Wisconsin," 25 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

6 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Disperse.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disperse. Accessed 8 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for disperse



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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