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 actuate (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 Many of the Logitech gaming keyboards feature low-profile designs with keys that actuate quickly and can be manipulated to create custom controls. Edmund Torr, Popular Science, "Best gaming keyboard: Light up your setup," 19 Feb. 2021 Similarly, the automatic transmission is actuated by four simple buttons that are easy to actuate by feel. Tribune News Service, cleveland, "Outstanding design and green credibility make Sonata Limited Hybrid a sedan to covet (review)," 3 Oct. 2020 The extra-large thumb lever is also easy to actuate, so even an uncoordinated stab isn’t really an issue. Popular Science, "Choose the right sound for your bike," 14 Sep. 2020 Without power, the 911's outside door handles no longer actuate the latch, even though the car was previously unlocked. Dave Vanderwerp, Car and Driver, "The Latest Porsche 911's Electronic Door Latches Are Tech for Tech's Sake," 22 Aug. 2020 Hurst realized that when a finger touches a screen composed of numerous thin resistive layers with thin gaps between them, a computer can read the location of the resulting voltage and actuate the command. Larry Printz, Ars Technica, "The long, winding, technological road to GPS in every car," 24 June 2020 Themely spends a lot of the video explaining the physical controls in the cockpit—switches and levers that actuate functions that on a more modern fifth-generation fighter might instead be primarily accessed via touchscreen. Lee Hutchinson, Ars Technica, "Human Interface: What (almost) every button in an F-15C fighter’s cockpit does," 30 June 2020 Carbon-ceramic brake rotors are standard, and the Tributo's stoppers require a strong leg to actuate. Scott Oldham, Car and Driver, "2020 Ferrari F8 Tributo Demands Driver Involvement," 29 May 2020 And there is a side lever to actuate the magazine and load the chamber for rapid follow up shots. Joseph Albanese, Field & Stream, "The 12 Best Air Guns of 2020," 28 Feb. 2020

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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Time Traveler for actuate

Time Traveler

The first known use of actuate was in 1641

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Statistics for actuate

Last Updated

26 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Actuate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 May. 2021.

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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

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