operate

verb
op·​er·​ate | \ ˈä-pə-ˌrāt How to pronounce operate (audio) , ˈä-ˌprāt\
operated; operating

Definition of operate

intransitive verb

1 : to perform a function : exert power or influence factors operating against our success
2 : to produce an appropriate effect the drug operated quickly
3a : to perform an operation or a series of operations The refinery is planning to begin operating as soon as possible.
b : to perform surgery The surgeon has been operating all morning.
c : to carry on a military or naval action or mission The army will operate in conjunction with the air force.
4 : to follow a course of conduct that is often irregular crooked gamblers operating in the club

transitive verb

2a : to cause to function : work operate an automobile
b : to put or keep in operation operated a grocery store
3 : to perform an operation on especially : to perform surgery usually used with on operate on a patient operating on a brain tumor

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for operate

Synonyms

handle, run, work

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of operate in a Sentence

They hope to have the windmill operating again tomorrow. The camera also operates underwater. The machine can operate at high speeds. instructions for operating the new microwave oven a license to operate a motor vehicle The café is owned and operated by a young couple. The organization operates a recycling program. It's the only casino operating in the state. The company operates from Chicago. a militant group operating against the government
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

These programs are designed to mimic how our own brains operate, making them very intelligent and creative. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "Scientists Figured Out How to Make Neural Networks 90 Percent Smaller—but Just as Smart," 7 May 2019 Not only may tanker aircraft no longer enjoy the safe haven of operating many miles away from danger, but additional threats may be floating directly beneath them. Jon Talton, The Seattle Times, "Boeing’s other problem: Much-needed Air Force tanker keeps hitting snafus," 12 Apr. 2019 But there is no question that King’s death, just like his life, signaled a sea change in how politics operate in the United States. Jenn M. Jackson, Teen Vogue, "Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Died Because of Hatred. That Should Not Be Whitewashed," 4 Apr. 2019 Now What’s it like operating a business as sisters? Minna Shim, Harper's BAZAAR, "It Brand Dannijo and the Return of the Scrunchie," 20 Dec. 2018 Instead, skaters play the main role in how the agency operates: Saba Gorgodze shoots the Polaroids, and Nino Zvanbaia manages bookings. Liana Satenstein, Vogue, "This Tbilisi-Based Modeling Agency Was Founded for Skaters, by Skaters," 2 Nov. 2018 The single-aisle 737 is a workhorse of commercial airlines around the world: it’s been operating for 40 years, and there are more than 10,000 currently in service; a 737 takes off somewhere in the world every two seconds, according to Boeing. Barbara Peterson, Condé Nast Traveler, "How Often Do New Airplanes Have Problems?," 2 Nov. 2018 The Google protest demonstrates how tech workers — historically a relatively disorganized labor group — are banding together to make demands of how big tech companies should more ethically operate their businesses. Shirin Ghaffary, Recode, "Google’s giant employee walkouts are one of the strongest showings of tech worker activism yet," 1 Nov. 2018 The plane, operated by Aeroflot, Russia’s flagship carrier, was bound from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport for the northwestern city of Murmansk. ... Georgi Kantchev, WSJ, "Russian Investigators Examine Black Boxes for Cause of Sukhoi Jet Fire," 6 May 2019

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

1588, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

History and Etymology for operate

borrowed from Late Latin operātus, past participle of operārī "to work, be efficacious, effect, produce," going back to Latin, "to busy oneself, be at work," probably back-formation from operātus "busy, engaged, occupied with religious observances," from opera "activity, effort" + -ātus -ate entry 3 — more at opera entry 2

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about operate

Statistics for operate

Last Updated

25 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for operate

The first known use of operate was in 1588

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for operate

operate

verb

English Language Learners Definition of operate

: to function or behave in a proper or particular way
: to use and control (something)
: to have control of (something, such as a business, department, program, etc.)

operate

verb
op·​er·​ate | \ ˈä-pə-ˌrāt How to pronounce operate (audio) \
operated; operating

Kids Definition of operate

1 : to work or cause to work in a proper or particular way The machine is operating smoothly. He will learn to operate a car.
2 : manage sense 1 They operate a farm.
3 : to perform surgery : do an operation on The doctors operated on the patient.

operate

verb
op·​er·​ate | \ ˈäp-(ə-)ˌrāt How to pronounce operate (audio) \
operated; operating

Medical Definition of operate

intransitive verb

: to perform surgery

transitive verb

: to perform surgery on operated the growth

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on operate

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with operate

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for operate

Spanish Central: Translation of operate

Nglish: Translation of operate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of operate for Arabic Speakers

Comments on operate

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

WORD OF THE DAY

to speak slightingly about or to degrade

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Challenging Vocabulary Quiz Returns!

  • stylized drawing of woman pole vaulting across gap to get trophy
  • Which is a synonym of fuliginous?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

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

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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