ac·​tu·​ate | \ ˈak-chə-ˌwāt How to pronounce actuate (audio) , -shə-\
actuated; actuating

Definition of actuate

transitive verb

1 : to put into mechanical action or motion The pump is actuated by the windmill.
2 : to move to action a decision actuated by greed

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Other Words from actuate

actuation \ ˌak-​chə-​ˈwā-​shən How to pronounce actuation (audio) , -​shə-​ \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for actuate

move, actuate, drive, impel mean to set or keep in motion. move is very general and implies no more than the fact of changing position. moved the furniture actuate stresses transmission of power so as to work or set in motion. turbines actuated by waterpower drive implies imparting forward and continuous motion and often stresses the effect rather than the impetus. a ship driven aground by hurricane winds impel is usually figurative and suggests a great motivating impetus. a candidate impelled by ambition

Examples of actuate in a Sentence

The pump is actuated by the windmill. a light actuated by a motion detector

Recent Examples on the Web

When the joystick of the left hand control is actuated, a waterfall roar arises from the spinning of the left tread. Kevin Dupzyk, Popular Mechanics, "The Tank That's Tougher Than Wildfire," 13 Nov. 2018 Weightlifting performance of individual and bundled fiber muscles actuated via a heat gun. Sid Perkins, Scientific American, "A New Twist on Artificial Muscles," 11 July 2019 Before robots like this can explore the real world, researchers will have to figure out how to power and actuate them some other way, with hydraulic systems perhaps. Matt Simon, WIRED, "This Jellyfish Robot Is Much More Than Just a Good Swimmer," 2 July 2019 Well after Horch the man departed, the automaker was cranking out dual-overhead-cam straight-eights, servo-actuated brakes, four-wheel independent suspension, transverse leaf springs, and five-speed gearboxes. Clifford Atiyeh, Car and Driver, "The Audi A8 May Go Electric and Ultra-Luxurious with a New High-End Model," 25 May 2019 The original version incorrectly stated that all three rear fins are actuated. Mike Wall,, "SpaceX Will Fly a Japanese Billionaire (and Artists, Too!) Around the Moon in 2023," 17 Sep. 2018 The other two axes are the toe brakes, which are actuated by moving the bottom-pivoting stirrups forward (much like pressing a car’s accelerator or brake pedals). Lee Hutchinson, Ars Technica, "Thrustmaster TPR: The best flight sim pedals you can buy in a store like a normal person," 23 Sep. 2018 Butterfly doors are unlocked and actuated by a fingerprint sensor and a biometric facial-recognition system hidden on the B-pillar. Andrew Wendler, Car and Driver, "Genesis Essentia Concept: High-Tech Coupe Dreams," 29 Mar. 2018 The rear side-door handles on the midrange EX trim and above now have a button to actuate the sliding doors, and the 17-, 18-, and 19-inch wheels all get makeovers. Tony Markovich, Car and Driver, "2019 Kia Sedona: Still Fetching, Still Offers a Lot," 29 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'actuate.' 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 actuate

1641, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for actuate

borrowed from Medieval Latin āctuātus, past participle of āctuāre "to actualize," verbal derivative of Latin āctus act entry 1

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Dictionary Entries near actuate


actuaries' table




act up


Statistics for actuate

Last Updated

22 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for actuate

The first known use of actuate was in 1641

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More Definitions for actuate



English Language Learners Definition of actuate

technical : to make (a machine or electrical device) move or operate
formal : to cause someone to do something or to act in a certain way

More from Merriam-Webster on actuate

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with actuate

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for actuate

Nglish: Translation of actuate for Spanish Speakers

Comments on actuate

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


to wander slowly or to speak indistinctly

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