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

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Synonyms for operate


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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
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Recent Examples on the Web The issue, Turner said, is that state offices operate under health mandates from the governor, not from local mandates. James Brooks, Anchorage Daily News, "Alaska’s governor and attorney general say Anchorage’s mask mandate doesn’t apply to state offices. The city disagrees.," 29 June 2020 The problem is that most hotels operate on a business model that includes revenue from many sources in addition to rooms. Geoff Colvin, Fortune, "Coming out of a crisis, the boldest companies win," 25 June 2020 Texas Governor Gregg Abbott announced that pro sports venues could operate at up to 50 percent capacity. John Fay, The Enquirer, "Here's what the Cincinnati Reds had to say about fans possibly at Great American Ball Park," 24 June 2020 When Abbott announced recently that pro sports venues could operate at up to 50 percent capacity, MLB officials, according to two league sources, indicated the Rangers would be allowed fans. Allie Morris, Dallas News, "Play ball: All signs point to inaugural season at Globe Life Field as MLB plans 60-game slate," 23 June 2020 Health officials in Santa Clara County announced new pop-up sites testing for the coronavirus will operate from Monday until Friday this coming week at Andrew Hill High School in San José and the Santa Clara Northside branch library in Santa Clara. Chronicle Staff, SFChronicle.com, "Coronavirus news from the Bay Area: June 20-21," 23 June 2020 The company announced Friday that the new Disney Park Pass System will operate through disneyworld.com on either a desktop or mobile device, and registration through a My Disney Experience account will be required. Susan Haas, USA TODAY, "Disney announces when more of its Orlando resorts will reopen after coronavirus closure," 22 June 2020 While the company initially will operate out of the Florida spaceport, the system could be launched from multiple sites around the world, with Hawaii and Alaska near-term possibilities. William Harwood, CBS News, "Company plans space tourism flights in high-altitude balloon," 18 June 2020 The issue is that arbitrators operate under a standard that discipline must be consistent with past practice. Fox News, "How fired police get rehired: Discipline challenges emerge in appeals process," 17 June 2020

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for operate

Time Traveler

The first known use of operate was in 1588

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Statistics for operate

Last Updated

3 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Operate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/operate. Accessed 14 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for operate


How to pronounce operate (audio)

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.)


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.


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

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More from Merriam-Webster on operate

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for operate

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with operate

Spanish Central: Translation of operate

Nglish: Translation of operate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of operate for Arabic Speakers

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