[ dih-spur-zhuhn, -shuhn ]
See synonyms for dispersion on Thesaurus.com
  1. Also dispersal. an act, state, or instance of dispersing or of being dispersed.

  2. Optics.

    • the variation of the index of refraction of a transparent substance, as glass, with the wavelength of light, with the index of refraction increasing as the wavelength decreases.

    • the separation of white or compound light into its respective colors, as in the formation of a spectrum by a prism.

  1. Statistics. the scattering of values of a variable around the mean or median of a distribution.

  2. Military. a scattered pattern of hits of bombs dropped under identical conditions or of shots fired from the same gun with the same firing data.

  3. Also called dis·perse sys·tem [dih-spurs-sis-tuhm] /dɪˈspɜrs ˈsɪs təm/ .Physical Chemistry. a system of dispersed particles suspended in a solid, liquid, or gas.

  4. (initial capital letter) Diaspora (def. 1).

Origin of dispersion

1350–1400; Middle English dispersio(u)n (<Anglo-French ) <Latin dispersiōn- (stem of dispersiō), equivalent to dispers(us) (see disperse) + -iōn--ion

Other words from dispersion

  • non·dis·per·sion, noun
  • pre·dis·per·sion, noun

Words Nearby dispersion

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use dispersion in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for dispersion (1 of 2)


/ (dɪˈspɜːʃən) /

  1. another word for dispersal

  2. physics

    • the separation of electromagnetic radiation into constituents of different wavelengths

    • a measure of the ability of a substance to separate by refraction, expressed by the first differential of the refractive index with respect to wavelength at a given value of wavelength: Symbol: D

  1. statistics the degree to which values of a frequency distribution are scattered around some central point, usually the arithmetic mean or median

  2. chem a system containing particles dispersed in a solid, liquid, or gas

  3. military the pattern of fire from a weapon system

    • the range of speeds of such objects as the stars in a galaxy

    • the frequency-dependent retardation of radio waves as they pass through the interstellar medium

    • the deviation of a rocket from its prescribed path

  4. ecology the distribution pattern of an animal or a plant population

British Dictionary definitions for Dispersion (2 of 2)


/ (dɪˈspɜːʃən) /

  1. the Dispersion another name for the Diaspora

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

Scientific definitions for dispersion


[ dĭ-spûrzhən ]

  1. The separation by refraction of light or other radiation into individual components of different wavelengths. Dispersion results in most materials because a material's index of refraction depends on the wavelength of the radiation passing through it; thus different wavelengths entering a material along the same path will fan out into different paths within it. Prisms, for example, diffuse white light (which contains an even mixture of visible wavelengths) into its variously colored components; rainbows are an effect of dispersion in water droplets.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.