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

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 Compared to a full-size Cherry MX Brown switch (4 mm / 2 mm / 55 g), the MX Keys Mechanical's brown switches felt quicker to actuate and return, likely due to the shorter travel. Scharon Harding, Ars Technica, 24 May 2022 Optical mechanical switches actuate based on whether or not the switch's stem is passing through a light beam in the switch's housing. Scharon Harding, Ars Technica, 28 Mar. 2022 For comparison, Cherry's most common tactile mechanical switches (MX Browns) have the same specs but actuate at 2 mm with more force, 55 g. Scharon Harding, Ars Technica, 23 Feb. 2022 The keyboard has reed switches, which use magnets to actuate. Scharon Harding, Ars Technica, 3 Dec. 2021 In a side-by-side comparison with Cherry MX Browns, the G413 SE's switches felt lighter to actuate with a less prominent bump that was easier to press through. Scharon Harding, Ars Technica, 23 Feb. 2022 According to the full-size SE keyboard's product page, the switches actuate at 1.9 mm with 50 g of force and bottom out at 4 mm. Scharon Harding, Ars Technica, 25 Jan. 2022 But the comment could easily have been about white supremacists’ ability to actuate political change through the co-option of mainstream conservative institutions, as well as the government itself. Hannah Gais, The New Republic, 18 May 2021 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, 19 Feb. 2021 See More

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.

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

Learn More About actuate

Time Traveler for actuate

Time Traveler

The first known use of actuate was in 1641

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near actuate




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for actuate

Last Updated

30 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Actuate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jul. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More from Merriam-Webster on actuate

Nglish: Translation of actuate for Spanish Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Words Named After People

  • name tags
  • Namesake of the leotard, Jules Léotard had what profession?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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