operate

verb
op·​er·​ate | \ ˈä-pə-ˌrāt , 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

Thousands of men, keen of brain and firm of purpose, are enlisted on both sides, spending vast sums of money, and operating entire navies on the seas, and airplanes and motor fleets on land. Popular Mechanics Editors, Popular Mechanics, "Rewind: What Guarding Uncle Sam's Borders Was Like in 1925," 11 Feb. 2019 Imagine the possibilities if the household name brands that source from Bangladesh operated this way. Maya Singer, Vogue, "Is There Really Such a Thing as “Ethical Consumerism?”," 4 Feb. 2019 Leaders of a Jewish synagogue, which had been operating in secret, revealed its existence recently. Asa Fitch, WSJ, "In Arab Nation, Christians, Buddhists and Jews Emerge to Worship," 27 Jan. 2019 This cool mist ultrasonic humidifier is designed to operate for a full day without having to refill the ¾ gallon tank. Rachel Rothman, Good Housekeeping, "The Best Humidifiers to Buy This Winter," 20 Dec. 2018 Part of Musk's pitch is that if internal combustion engines are prohibited from operating in the tunnel, robust airflow isn't as much of a concern, so tunnels can be smaller in diameter. Megan Geuss, Ars Technica, "Ars takes a first tour of the length of The Boring Company’s test tunnel," 19 Dec. 2018 About 20 brothels operate in Nevada, mostly in rural areas. Fox News, "Dennis Hof, Nevada brothel owner, dead at 72," 16 Oct. 2018 The way in which the planet operates, however, is influenced by its zodiac sign. Aliza Kelly Faragher, Allure, "The 12 Astrological Houses: Interpreting Your Birth Chart Beyond the Zodiac," 6 Oct. 2018 Yeah, absolutely, and then at the same time, Silicon Valley companies were having troubles operating in China. Eric Johnson, Recode, "If they don’t want to lose their jobs to a machine, doctors will need to become compassionate ‘human connectors’," 17 Sep. 2018

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

16 Feb 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 \
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 \
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

very full or close together

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What did you just call me?! A Quiz

  • rows-of-various-emoji
  • If a member of the audience describes your speech as bombastic, does that person mean it is:
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

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!