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[dih-spens] /dɪˈspɛns/
verb (used with object), dispensed, dispensing.
to deal out; distribute:
to dispense wisdom.
to administer:
to dispense the law without bias.
Pharmacology. to make up and distribute (medicine), especially on prescription.
Roman Catholic Church. to grant dispensation.
verb (used without object), dispensed, dispensing.
to grant dispensation.
Obsolete, expenditure.
Verb phrases
dispense with,
  1. to do without; forgo:
    to dispense with preliminaries.
  2. to do away with; rid of.
  3. to grant exemption from a law or promise.
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 forms
undispensed, adjective
1. apportion, allot, dole. See distribute. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for dispense
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The following season, should you then permit him to lift his game , it will be time enough to dispense with his “pointing dead.”

    Dog Breaking William Nelson Hutchinson
  • But it is a question whether we cannot dispense with even more.

    The Common Law Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
  • It corrects our philosophy, but it cannot dispense with the philosophical attitude of mind.

    The Breath of Life John Burroughs
  • My name will suffice, if you compel me to dispense with yours.

    The Hour and the Man Harriet Martineau
  • The stairs offer no difficulty, so I can dispense with your assistance, thanks.

British Dictionary definitions for dispense


(transitive) to give out or issue in portions
(transitive) to prepare and distribute (medicine), esp on prescription
(transitive) to administer (the law, etc)
(intransitive) 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
Usage note
Dispense with is sometimes wrongly used where dispose of is meant: this task can be disposed of (not dispensed with) quickly and easily
Word Origin
C14: from Medieval Latin dispensāre to pardon, from Latin dispendere to weigh out, from dis-1 + pendere to weigh
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 dispense

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
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dispense in Medicine

dispense dis·pense (dĭ-spěns')
v. dis·pensed, dis·pens·ing, dis·pens·es
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.
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