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[dis-puh n-sey-shuh n, -pen-] /ˌdɪs pənˈseɪ ʃən, -pɛn-/
an act or instance of dispensing; distribution.
something that is distributed or given out.
a certain order, system, or arrangement; administration or management.
  1. the divine ordering of the affairs of the world.
  2. an appointment, arrangement, or favor, as by God.
  3. 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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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
Related forms
dispensational, adjective
[dih-spen-suh-tawr-uh-lee, -tohr-] /dɪˈspɛn səˌtɔr ə li, -ˌtoʊr-/ (Show IPA),
nondispensation, noun
nondispensational, adjective
1. dispersion, meting out, apportioning, dissemination, bestowal. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for dispensation
  • Academics have access to more of their data than the public through a special dispensation.
  • 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 dispensation.
  • Partnerships risking their own capital would live and die under the old dispensation.
  • Worse, the study ignores the fact that condom dispensation was quickly followed by a sharp increase in annual student pregnancies.
  • Yet the dispensation that has guided the kingdom for the past five decades has weakened.
  • Americans their dispensation only on condition that they aspire upward.
  • He is much taken with her beauty and considers asking for a dispensation to marry her, which encourages her greatly.
  • The children had to get dispensation from daytime fasting to take their pills.
British Dictionary definitions for dispensation


the act of distributing or dispensing
something distributed or dispensed
a system or plan of administering or dispensing
(mainly RC Church)
  1. permission to dispense with an obligation of church law
  2. the document authorizing such permission
any exemption from a rule or obligation
  1. the ordering of life and events by God
  2. a divine decree affecting an individual or group
  3. a religious system or code of prescriptions for life and conduct regarded as of divine origin
Derived Forms
dispensational, adjective
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
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Word Origin and History for dispensation

late 14c., from Old French despensacion (12c., Modern French dispensation), or directly from Latin dispensationem (nominative dispensatio) "management, charge," noun of action from past participle stem of dispensare (see dispense). Theological sense is from the use of the word to translate Greek oikonomoia "office, method of administration."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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dispensation in the Bible

(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 Article for dispensation

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
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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