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I've heard this word used in response to expressions of gratitude - a type of You're welcome, so to speak. So here comes the questions:

  • What does it really mean?
  • What type of word is it? A verb? Noun?
  • Where did it originate? (i.e. why do people use it)
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    Bear in mind that there are many synonyms for this word. I hear a lot of de nada or por nada instead of disponha where I live. In a certain region in Southern Brazil people say merece – gmauch Aug 19 '15 at 20:55
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What does it really mean?

It's a synonym of "you're welcome", in English.

What type of word is it? A verb? Noun?

It's a verb. In this case, at the 3rd person singular of subjunctive present, imperative form.

Where did it originate? (i.e. why do people use it)

It's a contraction of the phrase "disponha de minha ajuda sempre que desejar" (You can count on my help whenever you want).

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    Or it may mean "Suit yourself". Also, it may mean "place" (E.g.: "Disponha os itens por ordem"). Without a context, it has too many meanings. – Ismael Miguel Aug 20 '15 at 1:00
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    Well, I answered based on the context of gratitude. I think it is the OP main concern in the question. – Cigano Morrison Mendez Aug 20 '15 at 1:16
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    That's just pure speculation, as the whole answer is. The question is asking speculative answers as well. English is strongly based on context. Without a context, it's a word with a thousand meanings. – Ismael Miguel Aug 20 '15 at 1:18
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    It may help to know that Cigano's "disponha de minha ajuda" translates literally as "have my help at your disposal" or, less literally, "I am at your disposal." Dispor de, at least in this context, means to be at one's disposal, NOT to dispose of. – Jacinto Aug 20 '15 at 17:21
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I'm Brazilian and see all answers here as correct. But, although the word 'disponha' has, indeed, many meanings, it's far more used as a reply to a 'Thanks' sentence and the meaning of it in this context is exactly this:

It is a contraction of 'disponha de minha ajuda sempre que precisar' (You can count on me whenever you need) as this answer points out.

The word 'disponha' on this sentence can be exchanged by 'Faça uso de minha ajuda sempre que precisar' (something like, 'Make use of my help whenever you need'), but we never say it in any long form, it is always (and only) disponha.

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