ac·​ti·​vate | \ ˈak-tə-ˌvāt How to pronounce activate (audio) \
activated; activating

Definition of activate

transitive verb

: to make active or more active: such as
a(1) : to make (something, such as a molecule) reactive or more reactive
(2) : to convert (something, such as a provitamin) into a biologically active derivative
b : to make (a substance) radioactive
c : to treat (a substance, such as carbon or alumina) so as to improve adsorptive properties
d(1) : to set up or formally institute (an organized group, such as a military unit) with the necessary personnel and equipment
(2) : to put (an individual or unit) on active duty

intransitive verb

: to become active

Other Words from activate

activation \ ˌak-​tə-​ˈvā-​shən How to pronounce activate (audio) \ noun
activator \ ˈak-​tə-​ˌvā-​tər How to pronounce activate (audio) \ noun

Examples of activate in a Sentence

Touch the screen to activate the system. activate and then deactivate a mechanism The camera is activated by pushing a button. The bomb was activated by remote control. Sunlight activates a chemical reaction in the plant's leaves. vitamins that activate the growth of new cells The President has activated the reserves. See More
Recent Examples on the Web These are especially effective when looking to activate your largest lower body muscles, increase core strength, and improve your posture. Aley Arion, Essence, 29 July 2022 The person or performer engaging with the work can step into the object and activate it. New York Times, 18 July 2022 An effective warmup shouldn’t take more than a few minutes, but should be able to activate your muscles. Jeff Tomko, Men's Health, 8 June 2022 Simple moves like gentle stretching, foam rolling your upper back, and resistance band pull-aparts can help warm your body and activate your muscles. Christa Sgobba, SELF, 2 May 2022 But with the devices in place, the researchers could use a tablet computer to initiate unique sequences of electrical pulses, sent to the epidural electrodes via the pacemaker, to activate the participants' muscles. Tasnim Ahmed, CNN, 7 Feb. 2022 The micro-vibrations will help to activate more muscles, burn more calories, and improve circulation. Chris Hachey, BGR, 24 Nov. 2021 Cottle explained their focus is to use strength training to activate the muscles generally not used in daily life, which can start to deteriorate by age 40. Maria Aguilar, The Enquirer, 10 June 2021 Players who activate our DraftKings promo code will get a 30-1 odds boost on the Phillies or Cubs to score a run. Xl Media, cleveland, 20 July 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'activate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of activate

1624, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

History and Etymology for activate

active entry 1 + -ate entry 4, probably as adaptation of French activer, going back to Middle French, derivative of actif active entry 1

Buying Guide

Our Reviews team has selected the best universal remotes.

Learn More About activate

Time Traveler for activate

Time Traveler

The first known use of activate was in 1624

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near activate



activated alumina

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for activate

Last Updated

6 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Activate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Aug. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for activate


ac·​ti·​vate | \ ˈak-tə-ˌvāt How to pronounce activate (audio) \
activated; activating

Kids Definition of activate

: to start working or cause to start working Activate the alarm.


transitive verb
ac·​ti·​vate | \ ˈak-tə-ˌvāt How to pronounce activate (audio) \
activated; activating

Medical Definition of activate

: to make active or more active: as
a : to convert into a biologically active derivative or form activated plasminogen
b : to make biologically or molecularly active activate protein synthesis The [spinal] cord also contains neuronal circuits … that can be activated by incoming sensory signals without input from the brain …— John W. McDonald et al., Scientific American
c : to make (a substance) radioactive

Other Words from activate

activation \ ˌak-​tə-​ˈvā-​shən How to pronounce activate (audio) \ noun

More from Merriam-Webster on activate

Nglish: Translation of activate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of activate for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Odd Habits and Quirks

  • image1926873504
  • Which of the following best describes an easily irritated person?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!