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.
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Recent Examples on the Web The incident unfolded so quickly that officers who were equipped with body cameras did not activate them, Dist. Los Angeles Times, 26 Oct. 2021 Cornerback Stephon Gilmore practiced with his new team this week, but the Panthers did not activate him ahead of their game against the New York Giants this week., 23 Oct. 2021 Salinas did not activate his body camera before the shooting, so there was no direct view of the entire incident, authorities have said. Clifford Ward,, 21 Oct. 2021 There is no body camera footage because the officer involved didn’t activate his camera. Jordan Moreau, Variety, 6 Oct. 2021 Alexander did not activate his body camera, but multiple bystanders at the mall shooting were recording and posting the chaos live to Facebook. Elaine Aradillas,, 30 July 2021 Washington is the only jurisdiction in the United States where the state governor cannot activate the Guard — only the president has the authority to do so. Anna Giaritelli, Washington Examiner, 23 Feb. 2021 Buprenorphine works similarly to methadone but doesn't activate opioid receptors as strongly, says NIDA. Sarah Fielding,, 10 Nov. 2021 The Central Baltimore Partnership uses the Muldrow Fund, a commercial revitalization initiative focused on small businesses that activate long vacant spaces. Jacques Kelly,, 6 Nov. 2021

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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Dictionary Entries Near activate



activated alumina

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Statistics for activate

Last Updated

4 Dec 2021

Cite this Entry

“Activate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Dec. 2021.

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More Definitions for activate



English Language Learners Definition of activate

: to cause (a device) to start working
: to cause (a chemical reaction or natural process) to begin
: 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.


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, September 1999
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


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