from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • intransitive verb To give or deal out, especially in parts or portions: synonym: distribute.
  • intransitive verb To prepare and give out (medicines).
  • intransitive verb To administer (laws, for example).
  • intransitive verb To exempt or release, as from a duty or religious obligation.
  • intransitive verb To grant a dispensation or exemption.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To put up (a medical prescription).
  • noun Dispensation.
  • noun Expense; expenditure; profusion.
  • noun A larder; a spence.
  • 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.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun obsolete Dispensation; exemption.
  • intransitive verb obsolete To compensate; to make up; to make amends.
  • intransitive verb To give dispensation.
  • intransitive verb [Obs.], [Obs.] To break or go back from, as one's word.
  • noun obsolete Expense; profusion; outlay.
  • transitive verb To deal out in portions; to distribute; to give
  • transitive verb To apply, as laws to particular cases; to administer; to execute; to manage; to direct.
  • transitive verb obsolete To pay for; to atone for.
  • transitive verb To exempt; to excuse; to absolve; -- with from.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

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

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

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


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

[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.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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").


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