[ dis-burs ]
/ dɪsˈbɜrs /
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See synonyms for: disburse / disbursed on Thesaurus.com

verb (used with object), dis·bursed, dis·burs·ing.
to pay out (money), especially for expenses; expend.
to distribute or scatter: Our troops were disbursed over a wide area. She disbursed the flowers to the children.
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Origin of disburse

First recorded in 1520–30; from Middle French desbourser,Old French desborser, equivalent to des-dis-1 + -borser, derivative of borsepurse, from Late Latin bursa “bag”

synonym study for disburse

1. See spend.



disburse , disperse
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does disburse mean?

Disburse most commonly means to pay out money.

Disburse is typically used in the context of finance and business—especially when the exchange of money is formal.

The noun form of disburse is disbursement, meaning the act of paying out money, or the payment itself.

Disburse can also mean to distribute or scatter, but this sense is much less commonly used. (This sense sounds a lot like and means just about the same thing as disperse.)

Example: The staff is upset because payroll hasn’t disbursed paychecks yet due to a clerical error.

Where does disburse come from?

The first records of the word disburse come from around 1530. It comes from combining des (meaning “apart”) and bourse (meaning “purse”—a bag used to carry money). The same root is used in the more common term reimburse.

The modern financial use of disburse often refers to something quite specific—paying from a particular fund or account, often in the context of a business, charity, scholarship, or other formalized type of payment. To disburse is often to release money from one account to another. It’s typically only used in formal financial contexts, especially an institution making a payment to an individual. You wouldn’t use disburse when paying a friend back after splitting dinner—you’d just say pay or pay back or reimburse. If the thing being given out or provided is not financial or money-related (like food, for example), you’d probably use a word like distribute, not disburse.

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How is disburse used in real life?

Disburse tends to be used in formal situations, such as scheduled payments or other financial transactions, especially those involving institutions.



Try using disburse!

Is disburse used correctly in the following sentence?

The contract says that they will disburse payments on the first of the month.

How to use disburse in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for disburse

/ (dɪsˈbɜːs) /

(tr) to pay out

Derived forms of disburse

disbursable, adjectivedisbursement, noundisburser, noun

Word Origin for disburse

C16: from Old French desborser, from des- dis- 1 + borser to obtain money, from borse bag, from Late Latin bursa

usage for disburse

Disburse is sometimes wrongly used where disperse is meant: the police used a water cannon to disperse (not disburse) the crowd
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