[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 dictating

Contemporary Examples of dictating

Historical Examples of dictating

  • Yet the superscription is of his dictating, I dare say, for he is a formal wretch.

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

  • He found him dictating to his secretary, a great pile of letters before him.

    The Destroyer

    Burton Egbert Stevenson

  • Is there any objection to my dictating a letter to Miss Winthrop?

    The Wall Street Girl

    Frederick Orin Bartlett

  • You don't set up the pretension of dictating to me what I am to do with what's my own.

    A Set of Six

    Joseph Conrad

  • You don't set up the pretension of dictating to me what I am to do with what is my own.

    The Point Of Honor

    Joseph Conrad

British Dictionary definitions for dictating


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 dictating



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



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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper