dis·​perse | \ di-ˈspərs How to pronounce disperse (audio) \
dispersed; dispersing

Essential Meaning of disperse

: to go or move in different directions : to spread apart Police ordered the crowd to disperse. The clouds dispersed [=broke], revealing blue sky above. See More ExamplesThe fog gradually dispersed [=dissipated, vanished] as the day grew warmer. Police dispersed the protesters.Hide

Full Definition of disperse

transitive verb

1a : to cause to break up (see break up sense 1a) police dispersed the crowd
b : to cause to become spread widely disperse the troops
c : to cause to evaporate or vanish sunlight dispersing the mist
2 : to spread or distribute from a fixed or constant source: such as
a archaic : disseminate disperse the news
b physics : to subject to dispersion (see dispersion sense 4) disperse light
c chemistry : to distribute (something, such as fine particles) more or less evenly throughout a medium

intransitive verb

1 : to break up in random fashion the crowd dispersed on request
2a : to become dispersed the particles dispersed throughout the mixture
b : dissipate, vanish the fog dispersed toward morning

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Other Words from disperse

dispersedly \ di-​ˈspər-​səd-​lē How to pronounce disperse (audio) , -​ˈspərst-​lē \ adverb
disperser noun
dispersible \ di-​ˈspər-​sə-​bəl How to pronounce disperse (audio) \ adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for disperse

scatter, disperse, dissipate, dispel mean to cause to separate or break up. scatter implies a force that drives parts or units irregularly in many directions. the bowling ball scattered the pins disperse implies a wider separation and a complete breaking up of a mass or group. police dispersed the crowd dissipate stresses complete disintegration or dissolution and final disappearance. the fog was dissipated by the morning sun dispel stresses a driving away or getting rid of as if by scattering. an authoritative statement that dispelled all doubt

Examples of disperse in a Sentence

Police ordered the crowd to disperse. the crowd dispersed once the show ended
Recent Examples on the Web Amid chaotic scenes on the streets, Taliban fighters intervened and shot into the air to disperse the protesters. Jake Kwon, Tim Lister And Lauren Said-moorhouse, CNN, 7 Sep. 2021 Last spring and summer, anti-police brutality demonstrators marched through Detroit's streets, prompting the city to impose a temporary curfew, make arrests, and use gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters. Frank Witsil, Detroit Free Press, 2 Aug. 2021 Police used tear gas to disperse some demonstrators throwing projectiles at officers and made several arrests. Fox News, 26 July 2021 The mayor last September barred Portland police from using tear gas to disperse protesters after a judge’s order had restricted its use by Portland police to only encounters when lives or public safety were at risk. oregonlive, 23 July 2021 The prior day, police used tear gas to disperse the protesters, who shot arrows; one pierced an officer's leg. David Biller And Tatiana Pollastri, Star Tribune, 23 June 2021 The protest, however, is cut short when San Francisco police enforce a curfew until 5 a.m. and begin to fire tear gas to disperse the protesters. Max Gao, Vulture, 5 May 2021 During the protests, police used force and aggressive tactics to disperse demonstrators, while criminals took advantage of the upheaval to burn and steal from businesses. Kevin Rector, Los Angeles Times, 27 Apr. 2021 Various crowd control techniques, including aerosols and flash-bang grenades, were used to disperse demonstrators. Haley Victory Smith, Washington Examiner, 14 Apr. 2021

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for disperse

Middle English, from Latin dispersus, past participle of dispergere to scatter, from dis- + spargere to scatter — more at spark

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Time Traveler for disperse

Time Traveler

The first known use of disperse was in the 14th century

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Dictionary Entries Near disperse



dispersed harmony

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Last Updated

20 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Disperse.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disperse. Accessed 20 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for disperse


dis·​perse | \ di-ˈspərs How to pronounce disperse (audio) \
dispersed; dispersing

Kids Definition of disperse

: to break up and scatter The clouds dispersed.


dis·​perse | \ dis-ˈpərs How to pronounce disperse (audio) \
dispersed; dispersing

Medical Definition of disperse

transitive verb

: to spread or distribute from a fixed or constant source: as
a : to subject (as light) to dispersion
b : to distribute (as fine particles) more or less evenly throughout a medium

More from Merriam-Webster on disperse

Nglish: Translation of disperse for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of disperse for Arabic Speakers


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