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Middle English, from Latin distributus, past participle of distribuere, from dis- + tribuere to allot


transitive verb
  • 1 : to divide among several or many : apportion <distribute expenses>
  • 2 a : to spread out so as to cover something : scatter
b : to give out or deliver especially to members of a group <distribute newspapers> <distribute leaflets>
c : to place or position so as to be properly apportioned over or throughout an area <200 pounds distributed on a 6-foot frame>
d : to use (a term) so as to convey information about every member of the class named <the proposition “all men are mortal” distributes “man” but not “mortal”>
  • 3 a : to divide or separate especially into kinds
b : to return the units of (as typeset matter) to storage
  • 4 : to use in or as an operation so as to be mathematically distributive
intransitive verb :
  • to be mathematically distributive <multiplication distributes over addition>

— dis·trib·u·tee \dis-ˌtri-byü-ˈtē\ noun


distribute, dispense, divide, deal, dole out mean to give out, usually in shares, to each member of a group. distribute implies an apportioning by separation of something into parts, units, or amounts <distributed food to the needy>. dispense suggests the giving of a carefully weighed or measured portion to each of a group according to due or need <dispensed wisdom to the students>. divide stresses the separation of a whole into parts and implies that the parts are equal <three charitable groups divided the proceeds>. deal emphasizes the allotment of something piece by piece <deal out equipment and supplies>. dole out implies a carefully measured portion of something that is often in short supply <doled out what little food there was>.