See more synonyms for dispense on Thesaurus.com
verb (used with object), dis·pensed, dis·pens·ing.
  1. to deal out; distribute: to dispense wisdom.
  2. to administer: to dispense the law without bias.
  3. Pharmacology. to make up and distribute (medicine), especially on prescription.
  4. Roman Catholic Church. to grant dispensation.
verb (used without object), dis·pensed, dis·pens·ing.
  1. to grant dispensation.
  1. Obsolete. expenditure.
Verb Phrases
  1. dispense with,
    1. to do without; forgo: to dispense with preliminaries.
    2. to do away with; rid of.
    3. to grant exemption from a law or promise.

Origin of dispense

1275–1325; Middle English dispensen < Medieval Latin dispēnsāre to pardon, exempt, Latin: to pay out, distribute, equivalent to dis- dis-1 + pēnsāre, frequentative of pendere to weigh
Related formsun·dis·pensed, adjective

Synonyms for dispense

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Synonym study

1. See distribute.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for dispense


  1. (tr) to give out or issue in portions
  2. (tr) to prepare and distribute (medicine), esp on prescription
  3. (tr) to administer (the law, etc)
  4. (intr foll by with) to do away (with) or manage (without)
  5. to grant a dispensation to (someone) from (some obligation of church law)
  6. to exempt or excuse from a rule or obligation

Word Origin for dispense

C14: from Medieval Latin dispensāre to pardon, from Latin dispendere to weigh out, from dis- 1 + pendere to weigh


Dispense with is sometimes wrongly used where dispose of is meant: this task can be disposed of (not dispensed with) quickly and easily
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 dispense

early 14c., from Old French dispenser "give out" (13c.), from Latin dispensare "disburse, administer, distribute (by weight)," frequentative of dispendere "pay out," from dis- "out" (see dis-) + pendere "to pay, weigh" (see pendant).

In Medieval Latin, dispendere was used in the ecclesiastical sense of "grant license to do what is forbidden or omit what is required" (a power of popes, bishops, etc.), and thus acquired a sense of "grant remission from punishment or exemption from law," hence "to do away with" (1570s), "do without" (c.1600). Older sense is preserved in dispensary. Related: Dispensed; dispensing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

dispense in Medicine


  1. To prepare and give out medicines.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.