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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web Each quarter, cardmembers can activate these bonus categories for extra cash back on purchases at grocery stores, select streaming services, and more to receive up to $1,500 back. Jessica Puckett, Condé Nast Traveler, "Chase’s Freedom Flex Earns 5 Percent Cash Back on Travel," 15 Sep. 2020 New league rules allow for teams to activate two players from the practice squad on game days, so promoting one of is an option. Jim Ayello, The Indianapolis Star, "Colts All Pro guard Quenton Nelson misses practice with back injury," 10 Sep. 2020 For instance, researchers have shown that certain common phrases can activate voice assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple’s Siri, creating potential privacy problems. Jonathan Vanian, Fortune, "Amazon’s A.I. voice project gets help from Facebook, Dolby, and Garmin," 9 Sep. 2020 Using the Taser will automatically activate the camera. Phil Diehl, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Oceanside spending nearly $2 million on police body cameras," 6 Sep. 2020 If there were only a single parent, some genes would fail to activate altogether, making viable offspring impossible. Corryn Wetzel, National Geographic, "How some animals have ‘virgin births’: Parthenogenesis explained," 25 Aug. 2020 The Cubs could activate Chatwood and Quintana and use them as a tandem against the Tigers. Mark Gonzales,, "Cubs place slugger Kris Bryant on the injured list, and Jose Quintana could make his season debut next week — as a reliever," 22 Aug. 2020 Read various sections out loud to activate different areas of your brain, and read with the intent to share the information with a friend. Lisa Davis, USA TODAY, "Try these easy mind games to improve your brain function and help prevent disease," 7 Sep. 2020 The nonprofit was looking for a way to activate the space, and a partnership with local restaurants seemed like the perfect opportunity, said Anchi Mei, senior program manager with the MAKE Project. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Refugee-run cafe in North Park opens outdoor dining space to San Diego restaurants," 6 Sep. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Statistics for activate

Last Updated

22 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Activate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Sep. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on activate

What made you want to look up activate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Challenging Vocabulary Quiz Returns!

  • stylized drawing of woman pole vaulting across gap to get trophy
  • Which is a synonym of fuliginous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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