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

Keep scrolling for more

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 Back in 2000, Camenker’s group illegally recorded LGBT youth groups and distributed the videos in an attempt to defund the state’s Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth. Melissa Gira Grant, The New Republic, "When the State Enforces “Straight Pride”," 4 Sep. 2019 The contractors who distribute our paper in those areas were not delivering on those days as their communities prepared for the storms and tropical storm and hurricane warnings were posted. John Cutter, orlandosentinel.com, "Hurricane Dorian stayed off coast, so where is my Orlando Sentinel?," 4 Sep. 2019 More than 500 people and staff were involved in response efforts, which included disseminating pro-vaccination booklets, distributing educational materials in multiple languages, and attending community events, among other efforts. Fox News, "New York City's largest measles outbreak in nearly 30 years has ended, officials say," 4 Sep. 2019 An eye-popping $2,485,300 in purses will be rewarded with most of it being distributed in eight $300,000 Ohio Sires Stakes championship races. Bob Roberts, cleveland.com, "Record $2.5 million on the line Sunday in Northfield Park Ohio Sires Stakes races," 30 Aug. 2019 The other is a series of modern styles that includes a Northwest IPA, a double IPA and a Tropical Hazy IPA, which are canned and distributed in area stores. Andre Meunier, oregonlive.com, "Kells, once just a famous Irish pub, now a flourishing beer maker: Portland Breweries Series," 28 Aug. 2019 This classification has helped stoke fears that Y. pestis could be used as a biological weapon if distributed in aerosol form. Jenny Howard, National Geographic, "Plague, explained," 20 Aug. 2019 Tins of salmon caviar distributed in at least four U.S. states and possibly in Canada are being recalled because they may be tainted with toxin that can cause botulism, which can cause life-threatening illness or death. Kate Gibson, CBS News, "Salmon caviar recalled due to botulism fears," 16 Aug. 2019 The campaign will see more than 300,000 chicken boxes with the anticrime message distributed in fast-food restaurants across England and Wales. Jennifer Hassan, BostonGlobe.com, "British government accused of racism over anti-knife messages on fried-chicken boxes," 15 Aug. 2019

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about distribute

Time Traveler for distribute

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for distribute

Last Updated

25 Oct 2019

Cite this Entry

“Distribute.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/distribute?pronunciation&lang=en_us&dir=d&file=distri02. Accessed 22 November 2019.

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


not agreeing with established beliefs

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Food Quiz

Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

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!