Definition of dictate in US English:



[with object]
  • 1Lay down authoritatively; prescribe.

    ‘the tsar's attempts to dictate policy’
    no object ‘that doesn't give you the right to dictate to me’
    • ‘I don't want to dictate to smokers, but I also don't feel that my other customers and staff should have to inhale it.’
    • ‘According to Wellington's way of thinking, Tory MPs had no business trying to dictate to him what his policies should be.’
    • ‘What's important is that we not try to dictate to companies how they run their labor policies in this country.’
    • ‘But Ms O'Sullivan said it is not Mr Dempsey's place to dictate to teachers the format of their conferences.’
    • ‘Anything else smacks of ‘elitism’, the paternalist attempt by some to dictate to others what they ought to want.’
    • ‘So it certainly fits with the Government's modus operandi, which is to have a Minister to control and dictate everything, and, where he cannot do that, to ignore a commission.’
    • ‘We no longer practice in a paternalistic system where medical authorities dictate to patients what is in their interests.’
    • ‘We don't want to dictate to them what to do or what not to do.’
    • ‘The simple fact of the matter is that unionism is not in a position to dictate its own terms and it hasn't been in that position for almost forty years.’
    • ‘It's one thing to ask a correspondent to agree to terms of confidentiality before they read the message, but to dictate the terms afterwards?’
    • ‘But the drastic measures were attacked last night as the latest attempt to dictate to parents how they should bring up their children.’
    • ‘The bus operators have, like any good businessmen, chosen to run the services from where their customers want to catch them rather than trying to dictate to customers where they should catch them.’
    • ‘The way media works is not as a monolith in which one decision is dictated from central command.’
    • ‘The school did not dictate what themes had to be followed or depicted.’
    • ‘In short, BT can effectively dictate its terms to those wishing to use its local loop.’
    • ‘In January the newspaper unions ended the walkout on terms largely dictated by management.’
    • ‘I didn't let other people dictate to me what path to follow.’
    • ‘Truth, justice and the American way rely on preventing any single group dictating to the rest.’
    • ‘But I am a whole and complete person, and I cannot let those people dictate to me what role I'm supposed to play in society.’
    • ‘What state laws give them the authority to create their own rules and dictate to property owners what they can and cannot do?’
    give orders to, order about, order around, boss, boss about, boss around, impose one's will on, lord it over, bully, domineer, dominate, tyrannize, oppress, ride roughshod over, control, pressurize, browbeat
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    1. 1.1 Control or decisively affect; determine.
      ‘choice is often dictated by availability’
      no object ‘a review process can be changed as circumstances dictate’
      • ‘Today the forces that affect our lifestyles are dictated by a complex combination of international events and trends.’
      • ‘The change in velocity is understood to occur over time, as dictated by logic.’
      • ‘In politics, even what may appear to be insanity is ultimately dictated by a definite objective logic.’
      • ‘Soviet policy was dictated by conventional considerations of national defense, not international revolutionary strategy.’
      • ‘How the qualifier draw treats you can often dictate how a team recovers from defeat in the championship.’
      • ‘That makes editors toe the line dictated by interests financially controlling the publication.’
      • ‘His attitude is dictated to some extent by his admiration for the work of manager Mick McCarthy.’
      • ‘In fact, the establishment of a standard of review often dictates the rule of decision in a case, which is beyond Congress's constitutional power.’
      • ‘There are rules which dictate where tiles may be placed, but these are quite liberal and not very restrictive.’
      • ‘Of course military units must sometimes merge or be disbanded, as circumstances dictate; on this occasion, however, there is no such imperative.’
      • ‘The decisions that directly determine our present and dictate our future are made elsewhere.’
      • ‘These results suggest that the lens dictates craniofacial morphology by controlling eye growth.’
      • ‘All the more reason to allow market forces, rather than misguided and punitive regulation, to dictate the choices available to consumers.’
      • ‘Rules dictate when, where, against whom, and how we use force.’
      • ‘Such capital spending was way above the levels dictated by its economic determinants like the capacity utilization rate.’
      • ‘He's enabling the Bears to control the ball and dictate the tempo of games.’
      • ‘Joint doctrine is authoritative and followed except when, in the commander's judgment, exceptional circumstances dictate otherwise.’
      • ‘It dictates the choice of candidates, influences the rise and fall of politicians and determines who will be the leader.’
      • ‘I would hate to believe that this agenda is dictated by racist considerations or the colour of the skin.’
      • ‘Hard facts of terrain, distance, and a determined enemy would dictate military progress or the lack of it.’
      prescribe, lay down, impose, set down, set out
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  • 2Say or read aloud (words to be typed, written down, or recorded on tape)

    ‘I have four letters to dictate’
    • ‘In those cases, the reporters wrote down or dictated into a tape recorder everything they could remember from the interview.’
    • ‘I don't have anything to file, I've never dictated a word, and so far, I try very hard to write this column by myself.’
    • ‘‘I could dictate the words to you,’ he offered, sticking out a hand to receive the book.’
    • ‘While using ‘robotic talk’ to dictate one word at a time the software tended to interpret words and syntax incorrectly.’
    • ‘It was not for me to dictate words to be uttered by the heroes and heroines of the Minerva Magazine, contrary to the theories of the editor thereof.’
    • ‘Each word was dictated, then said in a sentence, then spoken again for the child to print.’
    • ‘At one point, she called a family meeting to discuss repeated requests for assistance, but before they gathered, she asked God to dictate the words she would use.’
    • ‘His nurse took pity on him and agreed to write a letter for Daniel as he dictated the words, the last letter from a dying soldier to his family.’
    • ‘Unique words found in the user's documents are added to the vocabulary files, and then the program asks the user to dictate these new words.’
    • ‘For those who believe God dictated every word in the Bible, these laws should be as valid today as they ever were.’
    • ‘The Muslims were enraged and did not want to accede to Suhayl's demand, but the Prophet commanded Ali to write as Suhayl wished, then continued to dictate the terms of the treaty to him.’
    • ‘During each presentation a running account of the male's response was dictated into a tape recorder.’
    • ‘According to Roux, Parnes submitted an invoice using words dictated by Roux.’
    • ‘"Rather bizarre, this room, " I dictated into my tape recorder.’
    • ‘The basis of Islam is the belief that Mohammed regularly went into a state of trance and heard a voice dictating Allah's own words.’
    • ‘The kindergarten revolves around ‘stories’ that children dictate to teachers about their experiences and then take home.’
    • ‘Milton's blindness forced him to dictate to an amanuensis.’
    • ‘We are told that Jeremiah dictated his words to Baruch, his scribal secretary.’
    say aloud, utter, speak, read out, read aloud, recite
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usually dictates
  • An order or principle that must be obeyed.

    ‘the dictates of fashion’
    • ‘The requirements include very specific dictates on what information must be provided and when, how many course hours must be taken, and how those hours must be completed.’
    • ‘The keepsakes also revealed the tension experienced by members of the upper classes who desired to display their wealth while appearing to obey the dictates of Christian piety.’
    • ‘Rice continued the US insistence that Argentina obey the dictates of the IMF.’
    • ‘Local councils such as Lewisham would be jumping to the demands of European dictates.’
    • ‘There is no formal training or education required for the role, the only criterion being that the individual must live according to the dictates of the church.’
    • ‘How unpopular would a president need to be before his unpopularity made it safe to follow the dictates of your own principles?’
    • ‘He has never fallen victim to the dictates of fashion or studio demands.’
    • ‘Classic structural contingency theory holds that the structure of an organization must match the dictates of the environment.’
    • ‘In any case, there is only one never changing rule: all news publication must obey the dictates of the Propaganda Department.’
    • ‘However, they were only able to articulate that opposition to the dictates of the employers must be organised on an international level.’
    • ‘Obeying the dictates of modesty, they usually preferred discreet euphemisms or a blushing silence.’
    • ‘You should enjoy a most fortunate and fulfilling term by obeying the dictates of your instinct.’
    • ‘They maintain that the veil enables them to become the observers and not the observed; that it liberates them from the dictates of the fashion industry and the demands of the beauty myth.’
    • ‘Whether it is news, science, religion, or education, if it is happening on TV, it must follow the dictates of entertainment.’
    • ‘Did it have to do with the dominance of the fashion advertisers and their dictates?’
    • ‘In my former professional life as a doctor, for example, I was obliged more and more to obey the dictates of ministers, rather than those of my medical beliefs.’
    • ‘We can all (we think) choose our own individualistic styles, scornfully ignoring the dictates of Paris and fashion magazines.’
    • ‘If it were up to Henkel, only those parties strictly obeying the dictates of the business world would have a right to exist.’
    • ‘Surely it is unfair to say that marriage may be reformed for the sake of anyone and everyone except homosexuals, who must respect the dictates of tradition.’
    • ‘In obeying the laws of a liberal constitution, we obey the dictates of reason, and to be compelled by reason is to be free.’
    order, command, decree, edict, rule, ruling, ordinance, dictum, directive, direction, instruction, pronouncement, mandate, requirement, stipulation, injunction, ultimatum, demand, exhortation
    principle, guiding principle, code, canon, law, rule, regulation, precept, dictum, axiom, maxim
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Late 16th century (in dictate (sense 2 of the verb)): from Latin dictat- ‘dictated’, from the verb dictare.