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

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Other Words from activate

activation \ ˌak-​tə-​ˈvā-​shən How to pronounce activation (audio) \ noun
activator \ ˈak-​tə-​ˌvā-​tər How to pronounce activator (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.
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Recent Examples on the Web After unwrapping it from foil, lightly wetting it and placing it in a soap dish or hanging somewhere away from the water flow in the shower, the bursts will activate with humidity in the shower, creating an aromatherapy escape. Ben Tobin, The Courier-Journal, "Shop Local: 5 self-care gift ideas from Louisville shops to soothe your 2020 anxiety," 13 Nov. 2020 The Chargers did activate Trey Pipkins from the COVID-19 reserve list Saturday after he was forced to isolate because of close contact with Groy. Jeff Miller, Los Angeles Times, "Bolting in right direction? Chargers look to end AFC West woes in Denver," 31 Oct. 2020 Governors could activate the Guard to help with security in the event of violence. The Salt Lake Tribune, "An Election Day role for National Guard? Maybe, but limited.," 30 Oct. 2020 Eligible card holders can activate their Peloton membership benefit by visiting and enrolling in an eligible Peloton membership using their Sapphire card. Julian Kheel, CNN Underscored, "Chase adds up to $120 in Peloton credits to its Sapphire credit cards," 27 Oct. 2020 The team must activate the player within three weeks, or the player remains on I.R. for the season. Andrew Krammer, Star Tribune, "Guard Pat Elflein, linebacker Troy Dye return to practice, begin three-week IR window," 26 Oct. 2020 But with four starters now back, the team didn’t activate any of the practice squad player for Sunday’s game. Tim Bielik, cleveland, "Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Las Vegas Raiders: How to watch free live streams, TV options, live updates, odds (10/25/20)," 25 Oct. 2020 The team can activate Daniels to the 53-man roster at any time during the 21-day period. Tyler Dragon, The Enquirer, "Bengals notebook: DT Mike Daniels cleared to return to practice, Brown to practice squad," 21 Oct. 2020 Mitchell said rather than having officers switch on cameras, the systems being reviewed can activate a camera automatically, for instance when the officer activates the squads emergency lights or withdraws a Taser or firearm. Mike Nolan,, "Orland Park police officers to wear body cameras in pilot program," 20 Oct. 2020

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for activate

Time Traveler

The first known use of activate was in 1624

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Statistics for activate

Last Updated

22 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Activate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Nov. 2020.

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More Definitions for activate


How to pronounce activate (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of activate

: to cause (a device) to start working
chemistry : to cause (a chemical reaction or natural process) to begin
chiefly US : to order (soldiers) to serve in a war


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.
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, September 1999
c : to make (a substance) radioactive

Other Words from activate

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

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