op·​er·​a·​tion | \ ˌä-pə-ˈrā-shən How to pronounce operation (audio) \

Definition of operation

1 : performance of a practical work or of something involving the practical application of principles or processes Practice until you can go through the whole operation without hesitation or thinking.
2a : an exertion of power or influence the operation of a drug
b : the quality or state of being functional or operative The plant is now in operation.
c : a method or manner of functioning a machine of very simple operation
3 : efficacy, potency archaic except in legal usage
4 : a procedure performed on a living body usually with instruments especially for the repair of damage or defect or the restoration of health needed an operation to remove his appendix
5 : any of various mathematical or logical processes (such as addition) of deriving one entity from others according to a rule Multiplication is one mathematical operation.
6a : a usually military action, mission, or maneuver including its planning and execution military operations for a large-scale invasion
b operations plural : the office on the flight line of an airfield where pilots file clearance for flights and where flying from the field is controlled
c operations plural : the agency of an organization charged with carrying on the principal planning and operating functions of a headquarters and its subordinate units
7 : a business transaction especially when speculative continued his operations in cotton futures
8 : a single step performed by a computer in the execution of a program (see program entry 1 sense 6a)
9 : a usually small business or establishment ran a struggling operation

Keep scrolling for more

Examples of operation in a Sentence

The family runs a small farming operation. The company is a billion-dollar operation.
Recent Examples on the Web Sun did not give details on how the data will be collected, whether the app will be compulsory, or how the score will affect people's daily life and business operations. Nectar Gan, CNN, "With the coronavirus under control, this Chinese city wants to score and rank its residents based on their health and lifestyle," 25 May 2020 With dozens of plants closed or cutting back operations, meat shortages have been forcing some grocery stores to ration grilling staples like ground beef and chicken breasts. Megan Molteni, Wired, "Covid-19 Makes the Case for More Meatpacking Robots," 25 May 2020 Christopher Nolan hasn't been shy about his affection for MacGruber, the Will Forte film about a special operations agent that parodies the Richard Dean Anderson character MacGyver. Rosy Cordero, EW.com, "MacGruber superfan Christopher Nolan can't wait for Peacock series," 24 May 2020 Sheriff Javier Salazar said his deputies were involved in a routine operation for violent crime and ran a license plate of a car that was driving near the 7400 block of FM 78 in east Bexar County. Elizabeth Zavala, ExpressNews.com, "Suspect tied to possible stolen car shoots, kills self as Bexar deputies were in pursuit," 24 May 2020 More Even highly manual operations like driving trucks are ripe for such advances. Jennifer Smith, WSJ, "Trucking Looks to Bundle Up Technology," 24 May 2020 In 2001, Bisignano’s operations outfit encompassed 16,000 employees in downtown Manhattan, many of whom worked at 7 World Trade Center. Shawn Tully, Fortune, "This Jamie Dimon protege has weathered six crises. Here is his coronavirus playbook," 24 May 2020 The firm does not disclose figures but by the reckoning of Simeon Gutman of Morgan Stanley, an investment bank, Walmart has so far invested a total of $15bn in online operations, which made a loss of over $1.6bn last year. The Economist, "A nimble beast Walmart ekes out an edge in groceries during the pandemic," 23 May 2020 The report recognized that needs and resources will vary widely among counties and recommended each form their own committees to plan a safe return to in-person court operations. Bruce Vielmetti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "State Supreme Court says counties can decide when to return to in-person court operations," 23 May 2020

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for operation

Middle English operacion "work, action, procedure performed on a body, functioning," borrowed from Medieval Latin operātiōn-, operātiō, going back to Latin, "application of effort, functioning (of natural forces)," from operārī "to busy oneself, be at work" + -tiōn-, -tiō, suffix of action nouns — more at operate

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about operation

Time Traveler for operation

Time Traveler

The first known use of operation was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Statistics for operation

Last Updated

28 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Operation.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/operation. Accessed 29 May. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for operation


How to pronounce operation (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of operation

: a process in which a doctor cuts into someone's body in order to repair or remove a damaged or diseased part
: a usually small business or organization
: an activity of a business or organization


op·​er·​a·​tion | \ ˌä-pə-ˈrā-shən How to pronounce operation (audio) \

Kids Definition of operation

1 : a set of actions for a particular purpose a rescue operation
2 : a medical procedure that involves cutting into a living body in order to repair or remove a damaged or diseased part I need an operation to remove my appendix.
3 : the process of putting military forces into action naval operations
4 : the state of working or being able to work The factory is now in operation.
5 : a method or manner of working The camera is designed for easy operation.
6 : a process (as addition or multiplication) of getting one mathematical expression from others according to a rule
7 : a single step performed by a computer in carrying out a program


op·​er·​a·​tion | \ ˌäp-ə-ˈrā-shən How to pronounce operation (audio) \

Medical Definition of operation

: a procedure performed on a living body usually with instruments for the repair of damage or the restoration of health and especially one that involves incision, excision, or suturing

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on operation

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


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

May 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a blooming wisteria tree
  • Which is a synonym of exiguous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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