dis·trib·ute | \ di-ˈstri-byüt also -byət , British also ˈdis-tri-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 \ 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

But when that isn’t feasible, the department steps in, distributing free Truvada starter packs to at-risk patients. Washington Post, "Out-Of-Pocket Costs Put HIV Prevention Drug Out Of Reach For Many At Risk," 11 July 2018 In May, Stone Street had demanded Diane Siskey immediately release $10 million in insurance proceeds to be distributed to investors. Deon Roberts, charlotteobserver, "Rick Siskey Ponzi victims will finally get paid, as part of a $10 million deal," 11 July 2018 Correction: July 9, 2018 An earlier version of this article misstated what the Emergency Food Assistance Program distributes to the Food Bank for New York City. New York Times, "New York’s Emergency Food Program Gets More Funding, but Will It Be Enough?," 8 July 2018 If passed, Proposition 1, the Veterans and Affordable Housing Bond Act of 2018, authorizes the state to sell $4 billion in bonds to distribute to the state's existing housing programs. Tony Bizjak And Ryan Lillis, sacbee, "Sacramento approved 5,500 housing units. Less than 100 were for low-income residents," 5 July 2018 Where Tim Howard distributed the ball to Donovan perfectly in 2010, Thibaut Courtois hit Kevin De Bruyne in stride. Andrew Joseph, For The Win, "Belgium's last-minute goal was eerily similar to Landon Donovan's 2010 heroics," 2 July 2018 According to a federal indictment, Lisa Hofschulz, 58, who also practices in Florida, and Robert Hofschulz, 70, conspired to distribute the drugs to customers who didn't have a legitimate medical need for them. Bruce Vielmetti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Owner of a Wauwatosa pain clinic is charged as part of a nationwide opioids crackdown," 29 June 2018 That’s the thinking behind GiveCrypto, a new global endeavor to distribute bitcoin and other digital currency directly to people in need. Jeff John Roberts, Fortune, "Coinbase CEO Launches Crypto Charity Fund, Aims to Raise $1 Billion," 27 June 2018 All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. Fox News, "Alberto Gonzales: WH response to indictments is baffling," 13 July 2018

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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Phrases Related to distribute

evenly distributed

widely distributed

Statistics for distribute

Last Updated

13 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for distribute

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

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More Definitions for distribute



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 , -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 \
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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Comments on distribute

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