dis·​trib·​ute | \ di-ˈstri-byüt How to pronounce distribute (audio) also -byət How to pronounce distribute (audio) , British also ˈdi-stri-ˌbyüt \
distributed; distributing

Definition of distribute

transitive verb

1 : to divide among several or many : apportion distribute expenses distributes toys to needy children
2a : to spread out so as to cover something : scatter evenly distribute the seeds
b : to give out or deliver especially to members of a group distribute newspapers distribute leaflets distribute a TV show to local stations
c : to place or position so as to be properly apportioned over or throughout an area 200 pounds distributed on a 6-foot frame distribute the frosting around the top and sides of the cake
d logic : to use (a term) so as to convey information about every member of the class named The proposition "all men are mortal" distributes "man" but not "mortal."
3a : to divide or separate especially into kinds distributing specimens into their proper classes
b : to return the units of (something, such as typeset matter) to storage
4 mathematics : to use in or as an operation so as to be mathematically distributive (see distributive sense 3a) Addition is not distributed over multiplication.

intransitive verb

mathematics : to be mathematically distributive multiplication distributes over addition

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Other Words from distribute

distributee \ dis-​ˌtri-​byü-​ˈtē How to pronounce distributee (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for distribute

distribute, dispense, divide, deal, dole out mean to give out, usually in shares, to each member of a group. distribute implies an apportioning by separation of something into parts, units, or amounts. distributed food to the needy dispense suggests the giving of a carefully weighed or measured portion to each of a group according to due or need. dispensed wisdom to the students divide stresses the separation of a whole into parts and implies that the parts are equal. three charitable groups divided the proceeds deal emphasizes the allotment of something piece by piece. deal out equipment and supplies dole out implies a carefully measured portion of something that is often in short supply. doled out what little food there was

Examples of distribute in a Sentence

distribute the assignments according to seniority committed to distributing the school's limited scholarship money so that it benefits more students
Recent Examples on the Web Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County and Mission Asset Fund will distribute the funds from July 15 to Dec. 31. Chronicle Staff, SFChronicle.com, "Coronavirus news from the Bay Area: July 6-7," 8 July 2020 On Thursdays, staff will distribute hot lunch for that same day, lunch for Friday and two additional breakfast meals. Dallas News, "Garland ISD continues serving free summer meals for students and their families," 7 July 2020 But the press cannot set guidelines, or distribute face masks, or perform testing, or do contact tracing. Louis Menand, The New Yorker, "This Fourth of July, Consider Trump’s Lobster Fib," 4 July 2020 The commissioners received an update on the county’s plan to distribute nearly $80 million in federal coronavirus funds for job training, assistance to small businesses and other forms of support. Scott Huddleston, ExpressNews.com, "Bexar County commissioner says ‘government has failed’ in pandemic response," 30 June 2020 High school administrators will then distribute the self-care kits to the students. al, "Alabama graduation coach sending self-care kits to Black Belt teens," 25 June 2020 The South Milwaukee School District will distribute meals to cover seven days per week throughout the summer. Alec Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "These Milwaukee-area school districts are offering summer meal services," 23 June 2020 Once the operational kinks get worked out, the brewery will distribute its beer in kegs to local bars and restaurants, with the eventual goal of getting 4- and 6-packs to the retail market. Matt Koesters, Cincinnati.com, "Sharonville's first craft brewery, Third Eye Brewing Company, opens Wednesday," 16 June 2020 From there, Bethel Friends of Canines will distribute the dog food to rural villages in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. USA TODAY, "Rock Hall, Hard Rock resort, full-service gas: News from around our 50 states," 13 June 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'distribute.' 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 distribute

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for distribute

Middle English, from Latin distributus, past participle of distribuere, from dis- + tribuere to allot — more at tribute

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Time Traveler for distribute

Time Traveler

The first known use of distribute was in the 15th century

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Statistics for distribute

Last Updated

1 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Distribute.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/distribute. Accessed 11 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for distribute


How to pronounce distribute (audio) How to pronounce distribute (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of distribute

: to give or deliver (something) to people
: to deliver (something) to a store or business
: to divide (something) among the members of a group


dis·​trib·​ute | \ di-ˈstri-ˌbyüt How to pronounce distribute (audio) , -byət \
distributed; distributing

Kids Definition of distribute

1 : to give out to or deliver to They distribute paychecks on Friday.
2 : to divide among many or several The money was distributed among the poor.
3 : to spread out so as to cover something Make sure the paint is distributed evenly.


transitive verb
dis·​trib·​ute | \ di-ˈstri-byüt How to pronounce distribute (audio) \
distributed; distributing

Legal Definition of distribute

1 : to divide among several or many : apportion
2 : to give out or deliver especially to members of a group — see also dividend

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