op·​er·​a·​tor | \ˈä-pə-ˌrā-tər, ˈä-ˌprā-\

Definition of operator 

1 : one that operates: such as

a : one that operates a machine or device

b : one that operates a business

c : one that performs surgical operations

d : one that deals in stocks or commodities

2a : mountebank, fraud

b : a shrewd and skillful person who knows how to circumvent restrictions or difficulties

3a : something and especially a symbol that denotes or performs a mathematical or logical operation

b : a mathematical function

4 : a binding site in a DNA chain at which a genetic repressor binds to inhibit the initiation of transcription of messenger RNA by one or more nearby structural genes

called also operator gene

— compare operon

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Other Words from operator

operatorless adjective

Examples of operator in a Sentence

the operator of an automobile the operator of a nuclear power plant Call the operator for the phone number. Operator, please connect me with extension 123. She's quite an operator—no one else could have gotten them all to agree to the project.
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Recent Examples on the Web

CME Group, the world's largest exchange operator, said Thursday that technical issues which prevented some trades from being executed Wednesday afternoon have been resolved. Samantha Bomkamp, chicagotribune.com, "CME trading returns to normal after technical problem," 12 July 2018 With Lyft purchasing the nation’s largest bikeshare operator and Uber just announcing plans to make Lime scooters available via its app, there’s even more reason for these services to proliferate. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "How cities should regulate the scooter surge," 11 July 2018 Cosco’s takeover of Orient Overseas, announced in July 2017, will help the Chinese shipping conglomerate become the world’s third-largest container shipping operator. Joanne Chiu, WSJ, "China’s Cosco Gets U.S. Security Clearance to Purchase Shipping Rival," 8 July 2018 Get our daily newsletter In France, Iliad, the third-largest mobile operator, is looking rather mature. The Economist, "A maverick French telecoms firm attempts Italian conquest," 21 June 2018 In December, to the dismay of many of its tenants, WeWork — the nation’s largest operator of co-working spaces valued at a frothy $20 billion — suddenly pulled the free alcohol from its California offices. Trisha Thadani, San Francisco Chronicle, "WeWork’s free beer to flow again, legal or not," 7 June 2018 On Wednesday, the Culinary Union estimated that MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment, two of Vegas' largest resort operators in Vegas, would lose more than $10 million a day combined if housekeepers, cooks and others go on strike. Editors, USA TODAY, "Pompeo talks U.S.-North Korea summit, NBA Finals: 5 things you need to know Thursday," 31 May 2018 Arriva, Denmark's largest bus operator, has many Muslims employees among its 3,500-person workforce and said Tuesday no problems have arisen during Ramadan. Fox News, "Danish govt: Minister's views on fasting Muslims are her own," 22 May 2018 Casa Padre is run by Southwest Key Programs, one of the largest migrant youth shelter operators in the country. BostonGlobe.com, "A migrant child’s days in detention included cleaning toilets," 14 July 2018

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

1598, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for operator

borrowed from Late Latin operātor "worker, producer," from operārī "to work, be efficacious" + Latin -tor, agent suffix — more at operate

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Statistics for operator

Last Updated

23 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for operator

The first known use of operator was in 1598

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More Definitions for operator



English Language Learners Definition of operator

: a person who uses and controls something (such as a machine, device, or business) : someone who operates something

: a person whose job is to help to connect telephone calls : a person who is in charge of a telephone switchboard

: a person who is able to easily achieve things especially by persuading people or by being dishonest


op·​er·​a·​tor | \ˈä-pə-ˌrā-tər \

Kids Definition of operator

1 : a person who manages or controls something a plow operator

2 : a person in charge of a telephone switchboard

3 : a person who is skillful at achieving things by persuasion or deception


op·​er·​a·​tor | \ˈäp-(ə-)ˌrāt-ər \

Medical Definition of operator 

1 : one (as a dentist or surgeon) who performs surgical operations

2 : a binding site in a DNA chain at which a genetic repressor binds to inhibit the initiation of transcription of messenger RNA by one or more nearby structural genes

called also operator gene

— compare operon

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Comments on operator

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


to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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