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

The bulk of the story was devoted to Leonard having to choose which colleague to distribute extra grant money to for their work project. Jessica Radloff, Glamour, "The Big Bang Theory Season 12, Episode 7 Recap: Bernadette Hides From Her Kids," 1 Nov. 2018 Galaxies are thought to be distributed across the universe more or less evenly, and researchers have estimated the ancient age of some of those close to us before. Jay Bennett, Popular Mechanics, "Some of the Oldest Galaxies in the Universe Orbit the MIlky Way," 16 Aug. 2018 Nor may the Service be stored (in its entirety or in any part) in databases for access by you or any third party or to distribute any database Services containing all or part of the Service. Bloomberg, "Terms of Service," 8 July 2018 Previously, organizations needed a prescription from an individual physician in order to distribute naloxone. Catherine Ho, SFChronicle.com, "More California pharmacies to distribute opioid overdose drug," 6 July 2018 In addition, Amazon has almost 480 Whole Foods stores, with their affluent customer base, as a second place to distribute the catalogs. Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY, "Amazon may put out a toy catalog, a holiday tradition up for grabs after Toys 'R Us bankruptcy," 5 July 2018 Light-emitting diodes distributed along two adjoining edges of a mat transmit light into the fibres. The Economist, "The way people walk can be used for ID and health checks," 12 July 2018 In the past, embossed plates were manufactured in bulk and distributed in large numbers to county motor vehicle offices. Lynn Horsley, kansascity, "Getting a new Kansas license plate? To avoid sticker shock, keep track of that decal," 11 July 2018 David also created the Food Division, which distributes the restaurant’s salsas and barbecue sauce, developed from his grandmother and grandfather’s recipes. star-telegram, "A day in the life of Joe T. Garcia's," 11 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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Last Updated

22 Nov 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

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


an inexhaustible supply or amount

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