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With appropriate modifications, the finite-difference time-domain (FDTD) method can be used to analyze propagation through linear isotropic dispersive media. Although materials characterized by the Debye permittivity model can be analyzed accurately and efficiently using well established methods, the treatment of other types of frequency dependence is more difficult. This paper proposes the use of a weighted sum of Debye functions to approximate more general complex permittivity functions. A combination of the particle swarm optimization method and linear least squares optimization is used to find the relaxation frequencies and weights in the expansion, which can then be accommodated in the FDTD method using one of the established methods. Two key advantages of the proposed approach are that the relaxation frequencies are bandlimited and the weights are always positive. These two characteristics help to maintain the accuracy and stability of the FDTD solution. It is also shown that the correlation between the imaginary parts of two Debye functions is the same as that between the real parts.