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


handle, run, work

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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

Through hotel occupancy tax funds, the Pearland Convention and Visitors Bureau approved $500,00 to go toward restoring and operating the depot as a museum and event center. Tyler Johnson, Houston Chronicle, "Video crew coming to Pearland to make documentary on historic depot," 17 July 2019 Many supporters have voiced their displeasure at the fact that Arsenal are operating with a transfer budget of around £45m, even though they have been linked with a number of big signings, such as Kieran Tierney and Wilfried Zaha. SI.com, "Unai Emery Insists Arsenal Are Looking to Sign 3 or 4 'Very Expensive' Players Amid Fan Frustration," 17 July 2019 The College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, which has a staff and faculty of about 140, also operates campuses in Juneau and Kodiak and its collaboration with Alaska Sea Grant extends its reach to a dozen more locations. Anchorage Daily News, "Looking at budget cuts’ impact on Alaska fisheries," 16 July 2019 Evidence at the four-week trial showed Ifediba and his wife, Dr. Uchenna Ifediba, operated Care Complete Medical Clinic in Birmingham as a pill mill. Howard Koplowitz | Hkoplowitz@al.com, al.com, "Doctor, sister found guilty in Birmingham pill mill, Medicare fraud case," 16 July 2019 During his first six months in office, Lamont has repeatedly spoken about the need for regional cooperation with Baker and Raimondo in order to make government operate more efficiently. Christopher Keating, courant.com, "Gov. Ned Lamont receives support on tolls from Massachusetts, Rhode Island governors at first regional summit," 16 July 2019 The city is also looking to grow the stock of charging stations at up to 38 municipally operated lots and garages. Dominic Fracassa, SFChronicle.com, "To cut carbon footprint, SF moves to eliminate vehicle emissions by 2040," 16 July 2019 The draft proposes that these platforms will not be allowed to create or operate digital assets. John Detrixhe, Quartz, "Democrats want to keep Facebook out of finance—by law," 15 July 2019 For more than a decade, spacecraft landing on Mars have utilized images taken from orbit by HiRISE (High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment), operated out of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, to select their landing sites. Timothy Swindle, The Conversation, "Mapping the Moon for Apollo," 15 July 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.

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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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Statistics for operate

Last Updated

20 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for operate

The first known use of operate was in 1588

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More Definitions for operate



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

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).


to complain fretfully

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