verb (used with object), ac·ti·vat·ed, ac·ti·vat·ing.

to make active; cause to function or act.
  1. to render more reactive; excite: to activate a molecule.
  2. to induce radioactivity.
to aerate (sewage) in order to accelerate decomposition of impure organic matter by microorganisms.
  1. to make (carbon, a catalyst, molecules, etc.) more active.
  2. to hasten (reactions) by various means, as heating.
to place (a military unit or station) on an active status in an assigned capacity.

Origin of activate

First recorded in 1620–30; active + -ate1
Related formsac·ti·va·tion, nounnon·ac·ti·va·tion, nouno·ver·ac·ti·vate, verb (used with object), o·ver·ac·ti·vat·ed, o·ver·ac·ti·vat··per·ac·ti·vate, verb (used with object), su·per·ac·ti·vat·ed, su·per·ac·ti·vat·ing.un·ac·ti·vat·ed, adjective
Can be confusedactivate actuate stimulate

Synonyms for activate

1. actuate, start, turn on, set going.

Antonyms for activate Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for activate

Contemporary Examples of activate

Historical Examples of activate

  • It seemed to activate some hidden response in her, for she glowed with tenderness.

    Martians Never Die

    Lucius Daniel

  • And, remember, if it becomes necessary, I can activate the manacle.

    The Players

    Everett B. Cole

  • Feedback will be to a master control servo that'll activate the heater or cooler.

  • The males are few in number and lack the power to activate the disks.

    Storm Over Warlock

    Andre Norton

  • It could be induced to go into action and to activate the other plasmoids.


    James H Schmitz

British Dictionary definitions for activate


verb (tr)

to make active or capable of action
physics to make radioactive
  1. to increase the rate of (a reaction)
  2. to treat (a substance, such as carbon or alumina) so as to increase powers of adsorption
physiol to prepare by arousal (the body or one of its organs (e.g. the brain)) for action
to purify (sewage) by aeration
US military to create, mobilize, or organize (a unit)
Derived Formsactivation, nounactivator, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for activate

1620s; see active + -ate (2). Related: Activated; activating.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper