[dis-puhn-sey-shuhn, -pen-]
an act or instance of dispensing; distribution.
something that is distributed or given out.
a certain order, system, or arrangement; administration or management.
the divine ordering of the affairs of the world.
an appointment, arrangement, or favor, as by God.
a divinely appointed order or age: the old Mosaic, or Jewish, dispensation; the new gospel, or Christian, dispensation.
a dispensing with, doing away with, or doing without something.
Roman Catholic Church.
a relaxation of law in a particular case granted by a competent superior or the superior's delegate in laws that the superior has the power to make and enforce: a dispensation regarding the Lenten fast.
an official document authorizing such a relaxation of law.

1325–75; Middle English dispensacioun < Medieval Latin dispēnsātiōn- (stem of dispēnsātiō) a pardon, relaxation, Late Latin: order, system, divine grace, Latin: distribution, equivalent to dispēnsāt(us) (past participle of dispēnsāre to dispense; see -ate1) + -iōn- -ion

dispensational, adjective
dispensatorily [dih-spen-suh-tawr-uh-lee, -tohr-] , adverb
nondispensation, noun
nondispensational, adjective

1. dispersion, meting out, apportioning, dissemination, bestowal.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
dispensation (ˌdɪspɛnˈseɪʃən)
1.  the act of distributing or dispensing
2.  something distributed or dispensed
3.  a system or plan of administering or dispensing
4.  chiefly RC Church
 a.  permission to dispense with an obligation of church law
 b.  the document authorizing such permission
5.  any exemption from a rule or obligation
6.  Christianity
 a.  the ordering of life and events by God
 b.  a divine decree affecting an individual or group
 c.  a religious system or code of prescriptions for life and conduct regarded as of divine origin

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

late 14c., from O.Fr. despensation, from L. dispensatio "management, charge," from pp. stem of dispensare (see dispense). Theological sense is from being used to translate Gk. oikonomoia "office, method of administration."

late 14c., from Fr. dispensation (12c.), from L. dispensationem, from dispensare (see dispense).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Bible Dictionary

Dispensation definition

(Gr. oikonomia, "management," "economy"). (1.) The method or scheme according to which God carries out his purposes towards men is called a dispensation. There are usually reckoned three dispensations, the Patriarchal, the Mosaic or Jewish, and the Christian. (See COVENANT ØT0000916, Administration of.) These were so many stages in God's unfolding of his purpose of grace toward men. The word is not found with this meaning in Scripture. (2.) A commission to preach the gospel (1 Cor. 9:17; Eph. 1:10; 3:2; Col. 1:25). Dispensations of Providence are providential events which affect men either in the way of mercy or of judgement.

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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Encyclopedia Britannica


in Christian ecclesiastical law, the action of a competent authority in granting relief from the strict application of a law. It may be anticipatory or retrospective

Learn more about dispensation with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
Academics have access to more of their data than the public through a special
But as these instruments mature, this special dispensation will expire, and
  they will have to use undated replacements.
The statistics also showed a decline in the number of priests receiving
  dispensation from their vows.
And servants of the colonial regime still play important roles under the new
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