noun dis·po·si·tion \ˌdis-pə-ˈzi-shən\

Definition of disposition

  1. 1 :  the act or the power of disposing or the state of being disposed: such asa :  administration, controlb :  final arrangement :  settlement the disposition of the casec (1) :  transfer to the care or possession of another (2) :  the power of such transferald :  orderly arrangement

  2. 2a :  prevailing tendency, mood, or inclinationb :  temperamental makeupc :  the tendency of something to act in a certain manner under given circumstances


play \-ˈzish-nəl, -ˈzi-shə-nəl\ adjective

Examples of disposition in a Sentence

  1. They move jerkily, like puppets, but have a happy disposition; they are perpetually smiling and are given to frequent paroxysms of laughter. —Matt Ridley, Genome, 1999

  2. … the eight species of wild equids (horses and their relatives) vary greatly in disposition, even though all eight are genetically so close to each other that they will interbreed and produce healthy (though usually sterile) offspring. —Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel, 1997

  3. His father, Increase [Mather], with all his faults—his sour, depressive disposition, his open preference for England—is much more attractive. —Monroe K. Spears, American Ambitions, 1987

  4. Her easy disposition and sociability masked the intensity of her feelings. —John Edgar Wideman, Bothers and Keepers, 1984

  5. a dog with an excellent disposition

  6. Her disposition was to always think negatively.

  7. He has a disposition toward criminal behavior.

  8. people with a genetic disposition toward a particular disease

  9. A will is a legal document that is used in the disposition of property.

Recent Examples of disposition from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'disposition'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

What is the difference between disposition and predisposition?

What exactly is someone's disposition? And is it different from a predisposition? A person's disposition is his or her usual mood or attitude. Are you typically pretty happy? You could be described as having a happy—or cheerful, or sunny—disposition. Animals have dispositions too; a dog with a nervous disposition doesn't easily relax into a restful pup curled up at someone’s feet. In this use, disposition is a synonym of temperament; both words refer to the complex set of attitudes and inclinations that guide behavior.

Disposition can also mean "tendency" or "inclination," and in such cases it has a surprising synonym: predisposition. A disposition to exaggerate is the same as a predisposition to exaggerate. A disposition toward humility is likewise the same thing as a predisposition toward humility. The fact of being "in advance" that the prefix pre- implies hardly matters when tendency and inclination are concerned, since both concern what is likely to happen in the future.

While phrases like "a disposition to cooperate" are about as common as "a predisposition to cooperate," when the context is medical, predisposition is far more common. Phrases like "a genetic predisposition to nearsightedness" appear much more frequently in published, edited text than similar phrases employing disposition.

Origin and Etymology of disposition

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin disposition-, dispositio, from disponere —see 1dispose

Synonym Discussion of disposition

disposition, temperament, temper, character, personality mean the dominant quality or qualities distinguishing a person or group. disposition implies customary moods and attitude toward the life around one. a cheerful disposition temperament implies a pattern of innate characteristics associated with one's specific physical and nervous organization. an artistic temperament temper implies the qualities acquired through experience that determine how a person or group meets difficulties or handles situations. a resilient temper character applies to the aggregate of moral qualities by which a person is judged apart from intelligence, competence, or special talents. strength of character personality applies to an aggregate of qualities that distinguish one as a person. a somber personality

DISPOSITION Defined for English Language Learners



Definition of disposition for English Language Learners

  • : the usual attitude or mood of a person or animal

  • : a tendency to act or think in a particular way

  • : a tendency to develop a disease, condition, etc.

DISPOSITION Defined for Kids


noun dis·po·si·tion \ˌdis-pə-ˈzi-shən\

Definition of disposition for Students

  1. 1 :  a person's usual attitude or mood His disposition had been … sour lately. — Mildred D. Taylor, Roll of Thunder

  2. 2 :  tendency 1, liking She has a disposition to complain.

  3. 3 :  arrangement 1

Law Dictionary


noun dis·po·si·tion

Legal Definition of disposition

  1. 1a :  the final determination of a matter (as a case or motion) by a court or quasi-judicial tribunal the beneficiary of such a disposition of charges against him — United States v. Smith, 354 A.2d 510 (1976) — compare decision, holding, judgment, opinion, ruling, verdict b :  the sentence given to a convicted criminal defendant probation is often a desirable disposition — W. R. LaFave and J. H. Israel; also :  the sentence given to or treatment prescribed for a juvenile offender

  2. 2 :  transfer to the care, possession, or ownership of another to either a surviving spouse or a charity, those dispositions are totally exonerated from the payment of taxes — Matter of McKinney, 477 N.Y.S.2d 367 (1984); also :  the power of such transferral

  3. 3 :  the state or condition of being predisposed :  predisposition

Seen and Heard

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!


marked by lack of plan or order

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

The Emoji Quiz

  • emoji-the-quiz
  • What phase of the moon is this: 🌖 ?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!