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 The Treasury also said the cards will be issued by MetaBank beginning this week, which will include instructions on how to activate and use the card. Aimee Picchi, CBS News, "Millions of Americans could get their stimulus payment on a prepaid debit card," 19 May 2020 Professor Bader actually discovered the formula while looking for solutions to help burn survivors heal quicker—and TFC8 is supposed to activate your stem cells, which go to work to repair fine lines, dark spots, and visible pores. Sarah Wu, Glamour, "Augustinus Bader’s $265 ‘Miracle Cream’ Is as Amazing as Everyone Says," 19 May 2020 In addition to setting up a 37 billion-euro ($40 billion) corona investment fund, the EU is weighing how to activate its bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism, to unlock as much as 410 billion euros to help euro-area governments in need. Michelle Jamrisko,, "Cash and Low Rates: How G-20 Policy-Makers Are Stepping Up," 10 May 2020 Glycans help to activate, traffic and regulate immune cells. Quanta Magazine, "Sugary Camouflage on Coronavirus Offers Vaccine Clues," 5 May 2020 So activate a virtual content production studio and establish a unique content calendar for each major social media platform. Caitlin Yilek, Washington Examiner, "Obama advisers: Biden’s basement speeches ‘won’t cut it’," 4 May 2020 Add the sugar, salt and yeast, allow yeast to activate for about 15 minutes. Kimberly Wilson, Essence, "Escape To The Caribbean With These Soulful Recipes," 29 Apr. 2020 Major indexes across Asia-Pacific plunged in early trading, prompting some exchanges to activate circuit breakers and bring trading to a temporary halt. Eliza Mackintosh, CNN, "What you need to know about coronavirus on Friday, March 13," 13 Mar. 2020 But maybe this maneuver will excite new voters, activate young people and minorities, create a new winning coalition, and finally change America into a European-style state. Kyle Smith, National Review, "Two Movies That Define Today’s Democrats," 11 Mar. 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

23 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Activate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jun. 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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