Definition of dispensable in US English:



  • 1Able to be replaced or done without; superfluous.

    ‘tiny battlefield robots will be cheap and dispensable’
    • ‘Novelists seem to have as much to say as ever, but maybe books are becoming more and more dispensable to the modern human animal.’
    • ‘That's a hundred billion dollar fortune, a huge amount of money and they have to figure out how to do that, how to dispose of dispensable funds…’
    • ‘And then life wouldn't be this fast-food, microwave society where everybody's dispensable.’
    • ‘There is always something happening in the European style village… festivals, wine-tasting, shops that sell more than dispensable souvenirs, and entertainment.’
    • ‘In evolutionary terms, human beings are clearly dispensable.’
    • ‘Strange as it may seem, most people, especially men with their precious egos, do not like being told that the arrogance bred into them by their proud parents is an overbearing and dispensable quality.’
    • ‘Leading corporates the world over, no longer go by the old dictum that held sway at one time: ‘People are dispensable.’’
    • ‘We should not, however, assume from this that for Augustine-or for us-this parable is dispensable, a redundant repetition of a message that we already know from elsewhere.’
    • ‘During the last century, when communism attempted to conquer the world, the poor were never better than its dispensable foot-soldiers.’
    • ‘The ‘value’ of UN authority proved to be as dispensable as the Third Way.’
    • ‘Connacht, so long the political, social and economic ‘whipping boy’ of this island of ours, are once more found dispensable.’
    • ‘Needless to say, when that goal becomes personal salvation, the people who inhabit this earthly, tainted, and mortal world become dispensable.’
    • ‘This is achieved by doubling all the components, effectively making each component dispensable or ‘redundant’.’
    • ‘If - heaven forbid - things did get out of hand, better to have a row of eminently dispensable foreign journalists in the most vulnerable seats than the prime minister and his entourage.’
    • ‘If we could, the manuscripts would become unnecessary, dispensable.’
    • ‘The fourth group can be characterized as the urban working class, most of whom are increasingly dispensable and replaceable; their diminished prospects cause them to be generally opposed to globalization.’
    • ‘In short, he has become politically dispensable.’
    • ‘Our very success has made us seem dispensable.’
    • ‘And I have come to feel really dispensable, as though my initiative and judgment - the things that I personally can bring to the job - are not only unnecessary but unwelcome.’
    • ‘Speaking at the presentation ceremony, the Minister condemned those who have said that Irish has no place in modern society and that it is a dispensable relic from the past.’
    expendable, disposable, replaceable, inessential, unessential, non-essential, skippable
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    1. 1.1 (of a law or other rule) able to be relaxed in special cases.
      • ‘But acquisition of a land title was often a dispensable technicality for those too poor to purchase one, or who were not inclined to do so because of the vastness of the land.’
      • ‘This formulation of the argument begins by asking a simple question: When looking at the inherited traditions of a society, how can we know with certainty which are essential and which are dispensable?’
      • ‘And finally, would the government get to decide which red streams were necessary and which were dispensable?’
      • ‘Yet these aren't dispensable technicalities or bits of mere philosophical jargon; they're essential to any useful discussion of ethics.’


Early 16th century (in the sense ‘permissible in special circumstances’): from medieval Latin dispensabilis, from Latin dispensare (see dispense).