1. a portion or allotment of money, food, etc., especially as given at regular intervals by a charity or for maintenance.
  2. a dealing out or distributing, especially in charity.
  3. a form of payment to the unemployed instituted by the British government in 1918.
  4. any similar payment by a government to an unemployed person.
  5. Archaic. one’s fate or destiny.

verb (used with object), doled, dol·ing.

  1. to distribute in charity.
  2. to give out sparingly or in small quantities (usually followed by out): The last of the water was doled out to the thirsty crew.
  1. on the dole, receiving payment from the government, as relief: They couldn’t afford any luxuries while living on the dole.


  1. a small portion or share, as of money or food, given to a poor person
  2. the act of giving or distributing such portions
  3. the dole British informal money received from the state while out of work
  4. on the dole British informal receiving such money
  5. archaic fate


  1. (tr usually foll by out) to distribute, esp in small portions


  1. archaic grief or mourning

Old English dal “state of being divided; sharing, giving out,” shortened from gedal “portion,” related to dæl “deal,” from Proto-Germanic *dailiz (cf. Old Frisian and Old Saxon del, Middle Dutch deil, Dutch deel, Old High German teil, German Teil). On the dole is 1920s.


“hand out charity,” mid-15c., from dole (n.). Related: Doled; doling.

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