[verb dik-teyt, dik-teyt; noun dik-teyt]

verb (used with object), dic·tat·ed, dic·tat·ing.

to say or read (something) aloud for another person to transcribe or for a machine to record: to dictate some letters to a secretary.
to prescribe or lay down authoritatively or peremptorily; command unconditionally: to dictate peace terms to a conquered enemy.

verb (used without object), dic·tat·ed, dic·tat·ing.

to say or read aloud something to be written down by a person or recorded by a machine.
to give orders.


an authoritative order or command.
a guiding or governing principle, requirement, etc.: to follow the dictates of one's conscience.

Origin of dictate

1585–95; < Latin dictātus, past participle of dictāre to say repeatedly, prescribe, order, frequentative of dīcere to say
Related formsdic·tat·ing·ly, adverbmis·dic·tat·ed, adjectivepre·dic·tate, verb (used with object), pre·dic·tat·ed, pre·dic·tat·ing.re·dic·tate, verb, re·dic·tat·ed, re·dic·tat·ing.un·dic·tat·ed, adjective

Synonyms for dictate

6. bidding, urging, prompting.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for dictate

Contemporary Examples of dictate

Historical Examples of dictate

British Dictionary definitions for dictate


verb (dɪkˈteɪt)

to say (messages, letters, speeches, etc) aloud for mechanical recording or verbatim transcription by another person
(tr) to prescribe (commands) authoritatively
(intr) to act in a tyrannical manner; seek to impose one's will on others

noun (ˈdɪkteɪt)

an authoritative command
a guiding principle or rulethe dictates of reason

Word Origin for dictate

C17: from Latin dictāre to say repeatedly, order, from dīcere to say
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for dictate

1590s, "to practice dictation, say aloud for another to write down," from Latin dictatus, past participle of dictare "say often, prescribe," frequentative of dicere "tell, say" (see diction). Sense of "to command" is 1620s. Related: Dictated; dictates; dictating.


1590s, from Latin dictatum "something dictated," noun use of neuter past participle of dictare (see dictate (v.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper