Etymology: Middle English, from Latin distributus, past participle of distribuere, from dis- + tribuere to allot — more at tribute
Date: 15th century
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> • distributee noun Synonyms: 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>.
New Collegiate Dictionary. 2001.