The original confusion arose when I read the following sentence. --> you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution, or copying of this communication, or any of its contents, is strictly prohibited.

In this context, how do meanings of dissemination and distribution differ from each other? I look them up in dictionary, they both seem to mean "to scatter", so I am confused.

From dictionary: Disseminate To scatter widely, as in sowing seed. ;To spread abroad; promulgate: disseminate information. ;To sow and scatter principles, ideas, opinions, and errors for growth and propagation, such as seed

Distribute To deliver or pass out; To spread or diffuse over an area; scatter

  • It may well be that adding distribution to dissemination is redundant, but such redundancies are not uncommon in legal documents. From the viewpoint of the person drafting the document, it is better to incorporate such a redundancy into the document, than to take the risk that later, in litigation, it will turn out that there is some difference between the two words that one doesn't see now
    – jsw29
    Apr 13 '20 at 17:37

I think of disseminating as focusing on the information, or content, being released, regardless of format.

I think of distribution as the issuing/sharing of a discrete media or material, that has the information/content, but the focus is more on the media or distribution method.


Disseminate is a kind of 1-way. I mean.. Once the information is spread throughout, we can't undo it.

Distribute, on the other hand, is a kind of 2-way. For example.. You can distribute some hand-outs, and later you can collect in BACK.

  • I am not entirely convinced by that distinction. But perhaps disseminate does imply broader and less controlled spreading, while distribute suggests you know who it has gone to. So that could fit with what you say.
    – user184130
    Jul 29 '18 at 10:52
  • 1
    I think you could be right in the sense that 'distribute' does tend to imply something more concrete: you distribute leaftlets, handouts etc, newspapers, but you wouldn't normally disseminate them. You could disseminate the news or information though, and it might also be by word of mouth.
    – S Conroy
    Jul 29 '18 at 15:49

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