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 This diverse coalition is doing the hands-on work of making and distributing personal protective equipment (PPE) to health care workers across New York City. Christina Oehler, Health.com, "This Volunteer Group Is Making Free PPE for Health Care Workers," 19 May 2020 Setting up a system to fairly distribute equipment and supplies that are scarce and highly sought. Houston Chronicle, "US immunologist warns of 'darkest winter' if virus rebounds," 14 May 2020 The company distributes medical equipment, which became a key commodity during the virus outbreak as the nation’s hospitals grappled with surges in patients. Fox News, "President Trump to visit Pennsylvania amid battle over state’s coronavirus shutdown policies," 14 May 2020 Setting up a system to fairly distribute equipment and supplies that are scarce and highly sought. Time, "Whistleblower Warns of 'Darkest Winter in Modern History' Without Viable Coronavirus Vaccine Plan," 14 May 2020 Setting up a system to fairly distribute equipment and supplies that are scarce and highly sought. Author: Ricardo Alonso-zaldivar, Anchorage Daily News, "Whistleblower: US could face ‘darkest winter’ if pandemic response doesn’t improve," 13 May 2020 Prior to the return of employees to the plants, Ford is installing signage and barriers and putting in place logistics related to distributing safety equipment, Felker said. Phoebe Wall Howard, Detroit Free Press, "2 Ford plants in North America missing from list for reopening week of May 18. Here's why," 11 May 2020 Without a coordinated federal approach to distributing medical equipment based on need, states were left to fend for themselves, bidding against one another amid a global shortage. New York Times, "He Had Never Sold a Ventilator. N.Y. Gave Him an $86 Million Deal.," 8 May 2020 The foundation partnered with the L.A. Unified School District to distribute the equipment the past two weeks at schools that are serving as Grab and Go meal centers while classes are suspended. Los Angeles Times, "Column: LA84 Foundation helps kids remain active while staying safer at home," 6 May 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

23 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Distribute.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/distribute. Accessed 29 May. 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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