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 A day after the Ethiopia crash killed all 157 people on board, China ordered the grounding of the 96 Max jets operating in the country. Washington Post, "What Is the Boeing 737 Max and Which Airlines Fly It?: QuickTake," 18 Sep. 2019 But the flavor bans won’t have any impact on THC vapes, which are not regulated by the FDA at all, and with the exception of a few states, operate in a completely unregulated industry. NBC News, "Vaping 101: What to know about e-cigs, addiction and illnesses," 17 Sep. 2019 But with so many companies operating with different rules in contiguous municipalities, the consequences are sometimes perplexing. Los Angeles Times, "Did your rented e-scooter suddenly shut down? Blame the invisible geofence," 17 Sep. 2019 Former Manchester United teammate Alexis Sanchez may have to wait for his first European start, with Diego Godin, Stefan de Vrij and Milan Skriniar operating in central defence. SI.com, "Inter vs Slavia Prague Preview: Where to Watch, Buy Tickets, Live Stream, Kick Off Time & Team News," 15 Sep. 2019 In Larimer County, fire crews and the sheriff’s office are responding to a fire near Red Feather Lakes, with helicopters operating in the area, according to the sheriff’s office on Twitter. Saja Hindi, The Denver Post, "Wildfires burn Sunday in Colorado as hot, dry conditions continue," 15 Sep. 2019 Some Nigerian lawmakers have called for South African firms operating in their country to be nationalised. The Economist, "Xenophobic violence flares in South Africa," 14 Sep. 2019 The audit, conducted by the United Cannabis Business Association, found approximately 2,835 unlicensed dispensaries and delivery services operating in California. James Queally And Patrick Mcgreevy, chicagotribune.com, "Audit finds nearly 3,000 illegal marijuana businesses in Calif., dwarfing legal trade," 12 Sep. 2019 Matt Darin, co-founder and chief operating officer of Grassroots Cannabis, said Marylanders have embraced use of marijuana for medical purposes more quickly than residents of the 10 other states in which the company operates. al, "Maryland’s medical cannabis industry expands amid talk of legalization," 8 Sep. 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

26 Oct 2019

Time Traveler for operate

The first known use of operate was in 1588

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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

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 spread as a report or rumor

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