from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • transitive v. To deal out in parts or portions; distribute. See Synonyms at distribute.
  • transitive v. To prepare and give out (medicines).
  • transitive v. To administer (laws, for example).
  • transitive v. To exempt or release, as from a duty or religious obligation.
  • intransitive v. To grant a dispensation or exemption.
  • dispense with To manage without; forgo: Let's dispense with the formalities.
  • dispense with To get rid of; do away with: a country that has dispensed with tariff barriers.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To issue, distribute, or put out.
  • v. To supply or make up a medicine or prescription.
  • v. To eliminate or do without–used intransitively with with.
  • v. To give a dispensation to (someone) to do something against the law.
  • n. Cost, expenditure.
  • n. The act of dispensing, dispensation.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Dispensation; exemption.
  • n. Expense; profusion; outlay.
  • intransitive v. To compensate; to make up; to make amends.
  • intransitive v. To give dispensation.
  • transitive v. To deal out in portions; to distribute; to give
  • transitive v. To apply, as laws to particular cases; to administer; to execute; to manage; to direct.
  • transitive v. To pay for; to atone for.
  • transitive v. To exempt; to excuse; to absolve; -- with from.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To deal or divide out; give forth diffusively, or in some general way; practise distribution of: as, the sun dispenses heat and light; to dispense charity, medicines, etc.
  • To administer; apply, as laws to particular cases; put in force.
  • To relieve; excuse; set free from an obligation; exempt; grant dispensation to.
  • To atone for; secure pardon or forgiveness for.
  • Synonyms Dispense, Distribute, Allot, Apportion, Assign. Dispense is to be distinguished from the others in that it expresses an indiscriminate or general giving, while they express a particular and personal giving; as, to distribute gifts; to assign the parts in a play, etc.
  • To make amends; compensate.
  • To bargain for a dispensation; compound.
  • To give up the possession or use of; do without: as, to dispense with all but the bare necessaries of life; I can dispense with your services.
  • To give up the observance or practice of; do away with; disregard.
  • To put up with; allow; condone.
  • To excuse; exempt; set free, as from an obligation.
  • To do or perform: as, to dispense with miracles.
  • To dispose of; consume.
  • To put up (a medical prescription).
  • n. Dispensation.
  • n. Expense; expenditure; profusion.
  • n. A larder; a spence.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. give or apply (medications)
  • v. administer or bestow, as in small portions
  • v. grant a dispensation; grant an exemption


Middle English dispensen, from Old French dispenser, from Latin dispēnsāre, to distribute, frequentative of dispendere, to weigh out : dis-, out; see dis- + pendere, to weigh; see (s)pen- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Old French despenser (Modern French dépenser), from Latin dispensare ("to weight out, pay out, distribute, regulate, manage, control, dispense"), frequentative of dispendere ("to weight out"), from dis- ("apart") + pendere ("to weigh"). (Wiktionary)



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