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

Synonym study

1. See distribute.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for dispensing

Contemporary Examples of dispensing

Historical Examples of dispensing

  • Camille was there, dispensing its promiscuous hospitality to men who ate like pigs.

    The Cavalier

    George Washington Cable

  • Thorough knowledge of obstetrics and dispensing indispensable.

  • How could she shrink from the blessedness of dispensing the divine mercy?

    The Faith Doctor

    Edward Eggleston

  • The strongest, by dispensing his over many, may fail to accomplish anything.

    Pearls of Thought

    Maturin M. Ballou

  • To moralise this story, Virgil is the Apollo who has this dispensing power.

British Dictionary definitions for dispensing



(tr) to give out or issue in portions
(tr) to prepare and distribute (medicine), esp on prescription
(tr) to administer (the law, etc)
(intr foll by with) to do away (with) or manage (without)
to grant a dispensation to (someone) from (some obligation of church law)
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 dispensing



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

dispensing in Medicine




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.